Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez, only 23, on path to greatness

A critical look at the past week in boxing

Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez

Consider what Rodriguez has accomplished the past 22 months. He moved up from 112 pounds to 115 and took down mainstays Carlos Cuadras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, easily outpointed Israel Gonzalez, fought through a broken jaw to outpoint Cristian Gonzalez back at 112 and obliterated a supposed boxing wizard – Sunny Edwards – to unify two titles in his final fight at the weight Saturday. And he’s only 23. This is crazy stuff. Rodriguez’s performance against Edwards was sensational. He patiently, methodically broke down the second best flyweight, beat him up, made his face look like a war zone, put him down and finally forced Edwards’ trainer to save him from further punishment after nine rounds. A compelling matchup on paper was a rout in the ring. Of course, Rodriguez’s biggest challenges could lie ahead. He called out future Hall of Famer Juan Francisco Estrada, a 115-pound titleholder. And the great Chocolatito Gonzalez lurks. If Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) gets and wins those fights? We could be talking about a truly great fighter.


Sunny Edwards

Sunny Edwards took a terrible beating in the end. Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Edwards (20-1, 4 KOs) had a chance to become a superstar in his country. Instead, he’ll have to begin a rebuilding process. The Londoner’s undeniable technical ability proved too much for his first 20 opponents, who had trouble winning a round against him. His problem was that those 20 couldn’t compare to Rodriguez, whose combination of skill and power presented a challenge he couldn’t overcome. Edwards did well for a few rounds but was worn down by Rodriguez’s relentless attack and heavy blows, which set up the ninth-round knockdown and the end of what became a brutal beat down. Edwards is known as a defensive wizard yet Rodriguez landed 62.1% of his power punches. It was that kind of night for Edwards. Of course, the 27-year-old remains an elite boxer. He’ll go back to beating good opponents not named “Bam” and probably win another world title or two. However, the opportunity to become the face of boxing south of the heavyweight division in the United Kingdom probably came and went on Saturday.


David Morrell

The 168-pound contender’s second-round knockout of Sena Agbeko in Minneapolis proved next to nothing because of Agbeko’s limitations but it still was a special night for the Cuban. He can always say he delivered a stoppage on the final fight on Showtime. His parents were able to travel from Cuba to see him fight in person for the first time, which obviously meant a great deal to him. And it gave him the platform to call out the man he has been chasing – David Benavidez – one more time, which is part of the process of making fights happen. I don’t know when – or even if – Morrell will lure Benavidez into the ring but I do believe the former amateur star would be handful for his young rival and undisputed champion Canelo Alvarez because of his all-around ability. Find me an obvious weakness. Agbeko isn’t an elite fighter but he’s a solid one. And Morrell toyed with him before deciding to lower the boom less than five minutes into the fight. This guy is a genuine beast. Maybe he’ll get his chance to prove that beyond doubt in the coming year.


Jake Paul

Say what you want about Paul – and you will – you have to acknowledge that he has a flair for the dramatic. The right uppercut that ended his fight against Andre August in the first round Friday night was another viral moment for him. His wave goodbye as August lay on his back was good theater. And so was the moment he looked directly into the TV camera and made a shushing gesture, his way of telling his critics to shut up. How could you not love a knockout artist with a big personality? Does that mean he’ll realize his stated goal of becoming a world champion? Nah. He can now say he took down an experienced boxer but the obscure August seemed to be overwhelmed by the moment, which made him a sitting duck. Paul seems to have legitimate power but his skill set is still raw. He lost a decision to Tommy Fury. It’s difficult to imagine him developing to a point where he could beat legitimate champions. To be fair, though, Paul’s story already is improbable. Who really knows what this guy will accomplish when all is said and done?



Former 122-pound unified titleholder Murodjon Akhmadaliev bounced back from his split decision loss to Marlon Tapales in impressive fashion, breaking down and knocking out previously unbeaten Kevin Gonzalez in the eighth round of a scheduled 12-rounder. Akhmadaliev (12-1 (9 KOs) put Gonzalez (26-1-1, 13 KOs) down three times, twice in Round 6 and once more in Round 8 before the referee finally stopped the slaughter. No one in the division is going to beat superstar Naoya Inoue, who is scheduled to face Tapales for the undisputed championship on Dec. 26. However, Akhmadaliev demonstrated that he might be a more legitimate threat than anyone else. …

Talented 112-pound contender Galal Yafai (6-0, 4 KOs) earned a one-sided decision over Rocco Santomauro (22-3, 6 KOs), also on the Rodriguez-Edwards card. The 2020 Olympic champion’s combination of boxing ability and high work rate is formidable. However, the 31-year-old from England would have to be more responsible defensively to beat the top fighters in and near his weight class. He’s easy to hit. I’m guessing that’s something he and his team will work on going forward. … One of the more unlikely knockouts of the year occurred directly before the Yafai-Santomauro fight. Talented 122-pound contender Peter McGrail (8-1, 5 KOs) was outclassing Ja’Rico O’Quinn (17-1-1, 9 KOs) – who went down twice – when the Briton got caught with a right hook that put him down and out in the fifth round. That’s how a break-out performance instantaneously turns into a disaster. …

Jose Valenzuela couldn’t have been more impressive in his rematch with Chris Colbert, who defeated him by a disputed decision in March. He put Colbert (17-2, 6 KOs) down in the first round – as he did in the first fight – but this time he didn’t allow his slick opponent to get into a rhythm afterward on the Morrell-Agbeko card. Valenzuela (13-2, 9 KOs) kept the pressure on Colbert, consistently landed hard shots and finally landed the game-ender, a huge right hand in the sixth round. I doubt Valenzuela could hang with the man he called out after his victory, Gervonta Davis, but he’s an improving boxer with legitimate power. Who knows? … The fight between Robert Guerrero (38-6-1, 20 KOs) and Andre Berto (32-6, 24 KOs) on the Morrell-Agbeko card had the feel of a baseball old-timers ago, which makes sense given the fact both men are 40 and hadn’t been active. I support anyone’s decision to fight if he or she passes rigorous physicals beforehand, including these two. At the same time a good-spirited, if dull scrap would be a good way for both men to say goodbye. Oh yeah, Guerrero won a decision. …

Franchon Crews-Dezurn (9-2, 2 KOs) deserves credit. She lost her undisputed 168-pound championship to Savannah Marshall by a majority decision in July but bounced back to easily outpoint previously unbeaten Shadasia Green (13-1, 11 KOs) on the Paul-August card, winning back a vacant belt in the process. That was made possible when the WBC designated the injured Marshall its “champion in recess.” I have a question, though: How does a fighter who loses what should’ve been a unanimous decision – against Marshall – get a title shot in her next fight? Is the talent pool that shallow? … First HBO, now Showtime. The latter premium network showcased many of the most important fights for almost four decades, making it difficult to believe it’s over. Sad day. HBO and Showtime were the windows to the boxing world for three generations of Americans, particularly before the emergence of internet streaming. Now they’re part of history. Of course, the fans think about the countless thrills and brilliant commentators when they think about Showtime. I also think about the talented people behind the scenes whose paths I’ve had the privilege to cross. Farewell. …


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