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Cuadras vs Rodriguez Big Fight Preview

Carlos Cuadras seeks to regain the WBC super-flyweight title he held between 2014 and 2016 when he takes on rising contender Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez at the Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday night. Luke G. Williams previews the action…

The super-flyweight division certainly provides a welcome contrast to the tiresome promotional shenanigans and tortuous negotiations that customarily surround attempts to broker significant fights within a sport that forever seems to teeter on the precipice of  dysfunction.

Less than two weeks ago, we were looking forward to the prospect of a 115lbs showdown between Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada (the duo’s third meeting), as well as a rematch between Carlos Cuadras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. This duo of contests were set to be the eleventh and twelfth match-ups in an utterly compulsive four-way round robin between this quartet of formidable warriors.

Frustratingly, both contests fell apart – the former due to Estrada still suffering from the ill effects of a bout of Covid-19, and the latter due to an as yet unidentified illness contracted by Srisaket after arriving in the United States.

So far, so boxing, but what happened next serves as an object lesson for some of the reluctant warriors in the sport who posture and preen but balk when invited to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

First, Chocolatito agreed to face the toughest late replacement imaginable in the form of Julio Cesar Martinez (Boxing Social’s number one ranked flyweight), and then Cuadras agreed to take on an even later replacement in the form of fast rising and dangerous young contender Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez.

As fast as these two terrific fights had fallen apart, two match-ups that are almost their equal had sprung up in their place and on the same dates too. The message from all the boxers involved is loud and clear: others can wrangle about purse splits and rematch clauses, but we’re here to fight.

Cuadras-Rodriguez – which takes place this Saturday (Chocolatito-Martinez is scheduled for 5 March) – is an absolutely fascinating fight.

Mexican Cuadras (39-4-1, 27 KOs) is a skilled and experienced operator who can box and brawl and has mixed it consistently at the highest level. He wrested the WBC super-flyweight title from Srisaket way back in 2014 – albeit via a controversial technical decision – successfully defending the strap six times before losing a terrific contest to Chocolatito – then many people’s choice as the sport’s pound-for-pound king – in 2016.

Since that reverse the 33-year-old Cuadras has gone 4-3 in seven contests, while also battling addiction issues. Such facts – coupled with the fact he has not fought at all since October 2020 – are a cause for concern, and perhaps explain why you can get odds as surprisingly wide as 9/4 on ‘El Principle’ prevailing (while Rodriguez has been installed as a shockingly short-priced 1/3 favourite).

Cuadras seemed unconcerned about the change in opponent. “I’m happy and I’m very anxious to step in the ring again with this new surprise, of course,” he told The Ring this week. “The change hasn’t resulted in any frustration because I came prepared, whether it was for Rungvisai or Jesse Rodriguez.

“Obviously we had a strategy for Rungvisai but we had to make some modifications for Rodriguez. But like Rungvisai, he’s a southpaw and I had been training against southpaws. I have the medicine to defeat Jesse Rodriguez.

Surely the oddsmakers have severely under-estimated Cuadras. Of the four defeats he has suffered in his 39-4-1 career (27 KOs), one was against Chocolatito and two were against Estrada – both sure-fire future Hall of Famers. The Gonzalez loss and Cuadras’ first reverse against Estrada were also both extremely close and competitive fights.

Although Cuadras was stopped by Estrada in their second showdown it was another tight contest – indeed, Cuadras was arguably unfortunate not to win the fight. In the third round he deposited Estrada on the canvas with a huge left hook only for the bell to ring 25 seconds early in the round as ‘El Gallo’ covered up desperately on the ropes. In the end Cuadras was knocked down twice in the eleventh before the referee stopped the contest.

As well as possessing vastly superior experience to the 22-year-old Rodriguez, Cuadras also possesses the physical edge – ‘Bam’ has only ever fought once north of the flyweight limit, while Cuadras has spent the vast majority of his career at super-fly.

Rodriguez (14-0, 10 KOs), from San Antonio, Texas, is certainly a fantastic prospect, who appears to possess major punching power. The younger brother of Joshua Franco, current holder of the WBA regular belt at super-fly, Rodriguez is trained by Robert Garcia and has been widely touted as one of the most talented fighters in the lower weight classes.

Ambitious and hungry, he is to be commended for taking on such an experienced operator at short-notice, and is clearly undaunted. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be fighting for the WBC World title,” he said this week. “It’s always been a dream of mine to become world champion and that dream will become reality this weekend. On Saturday night, San Antonio will have another World champion!”

It must be emphasised that although Rodriguez has scored some eye-catching knockouts, he has fought no one even remotely in Cuadras’ class, and has never been past eight rounds as a pro. This deficit in experience may prove crucial if he cannot ice Cuadras early.

Of course, this may well be a case of the right fight for Rodriguez at the right time. Perhaps the long lay-off Cuadras has endured, as well as the punishing nature of his defeat against Estrada, had made him ripe for the taking. It would not be a surprise if a hungry Rodriguez took him out in the first six rounds in spectacular fashion.

However, my suspicion is that this fight may have come a little too early for ‘Bam’. My pick is for the old stager in Cuadras to upset the touted young gun, and overcome some difficult moments en route to winning a close decision and regaining his old title.