A stacked Matchroom card in San Antonio, Texas this Saturday night is topped by local hero Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez’s WBC super-flyweight championship defence against two-time former title holder Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Luke G. Williams previews a classic clash of youth versus experience.
On 3 May 2013, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, then a largely unknown Thai boxer, overwhelmed Japan’s Yota Sato in his native town of Sisaket to capture the WBC super-flyweight title, to the delight of his local fans.
In the near nine-year period that followed, this title would prove the exclusive preserve of an exclusive and exceptional quartet of fighters in Srisaket, Carlos Cuadras, Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, passing around them via a series of titanic fights and showdowns that helped make the super-flyweight division arguably the strongest in boxing.
In deference to the fabled ‘Four Kings’ of the 1980s – Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran – some even labelled these exceptional super flys the ‘Four Princes’, or the ‘new Four Kings’.
All great dynasties come to an end, however, and so it was in February of this year.
With Estrada’s elevation to WBC ‘franchise’ champion, Cuadras and Srisaket were preparing to do battle for the sanctioning body’s vacant 115lbs title, however the Thai’s withdrawal through illness late on gave an opportunity to young and unbeaten San Antonio tyro Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez.
Displaying the confidence and cojones that have characterised his career thus far, ‘Bam’ did not blink. Unfazed by the prospect of moving up in weight and tussling with a proven, world-class operator in Cuadras, he took the fight and won it via a dominant 12 round points decision.
The question now, is whether the era of the ‘Four Princes’ is over, or whether ‘Bam’ will merely prove a fleeting interloper.
This weekend we will find out, as Rodriguez continues his quest to clean out the established kings of the division when he faces big punching southpaw Srisaket at the Tech Port Arena in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday night.
At 22, Rodriguez is the youngest current world title holder in boxing and the San Antonio native has grand plans to establish his super-fly dominance. “A lot of people have eyes on me now and they are looking at me to take over the division,” he said this week in the build-up to Saturday’s showdown.
“I’ve seen a lot [of people] on social media saying I am the new ‘Choccy’ [a reference to ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez] and that’s a lot of motivation and I want to live up to the hype. Rungvisai has been in with the best and beating him would really boost my confidence and skyrocket my career.”
Srisaket has held the WBC 115lbs title twice, and Rodriguez, while respectful of the Thai’s abilities and accomplishments, also sounded a warning shot.
“I feel a lot stronger than I did against Cuadras,” he said. “That [win] wasn’t a fluke, I want to show I am the real deal. It’s possibly the toughest test you could face in a first defence of my title but like with the Cuadras fight, I had no hesitation because I am here to take over. I want to see how the fight goes. We do [also] have plans to go down to 112lbs and win a world title there, and hopefully unify and become undisputed, and then come back to 115lbs.
“There’s so many good fighters, I’d love to fight Estrada and Chocolatito and then at 112lbs there’s Julio Cesar Martinez, Sunny Edwards, Junto Nakatani; there’s so many great names and I would love to fight them all.”
First, however, ‘Bam’ must find a way past Srisaket (50-5-1, 43 KOs), which will be no easy task. Although the Thai puncher has had a quiet few years since losing a majority decision to Estrada in April 2019, his heavy hands and ability to apply almost relentless pressure will surely test Rodriguez (15-0, 10 KOs) like never before.
Srisaket is now 35 – the same age as Gonzalez – but remains confident that he can win this belt for the third time. “Although Rodriquez is very young, he is a strong champion,” he told The Ring this week. “He must not be underestimated. [But] I have been training hard and I will do everything to ensure that I will be at my best condition on fight night.
“I’m hungrier than ever. I really want to be a three-time WBC world champion. I would be the first Thai boxer in history to achieve that. I would like to face Estrada and ‘Chocolatito’ after this fight. That remains my ultimate goal.”
Bookmakers appear to have discounted Srisaket’s chances – the last time I checked Rodriguez was a 1/5 favourite, while the Thai has been offered as wide as 4 or 5-1. At such long odds, Srisaket is certainly worth a punt. If he performs as he has done in the past, then his hard punching, pressure fighting style could, quite simply, overwhelm the younger, smaller man.
The sensible pick is for ‘Bam’ to win a clear decision, but this is predicated on the theory that Srisaket is in decline.
If he isn’t, then the ‘Four Princes’ era may not be quite over yet.