Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez delivered a star-making performance with an eighth-round stoppage of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on Saturday in San Antonio to retain his WBC junior bantamweight title.
Rodriguez (16-0, 11 KOs) floored Rungvisai with a left hand in Round 7 and then finished him off in the following round with a barrage of punches as the former champion was pinned on the ropes. The referee stopped the bout at 1:50 of the round.
"This is the youngest champ in boxing and he already might be a pound-for-pound great," said Rodriguez's promoter, Eddie Hearn. "He's here for legacy; he's here to be remembered."
It was a dazzling display from the 22-year-old Rodriguez, who headlined in his hometown for the first time. He used an excellent southpaw jab, beautiful footwork and plenty of angles to keep Rungvisai off-rhythm and at the end of his power shots.
Rungvisai (50-6-1, 43 KOs) owns victories over a pair of future Hall of Famers in their primes -- Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada -- so it was particularly impressive the way Rodriguez was able to pick off his heavy shots and win every round in dominant fashion.
The plodding 35-year-old from Thailand needs to set his feet to deliver his power shots, but Rodriguez never allowed him to do so. He presented a moving target, and on the rare occasion Rungvisai did close distance, "Bam" turned him around.
"In the third round I felt his power wasn't the same," said Rodriguez, who entered the fight rated No. 5 by ESPN at 115 pounds. " ... That's when I decided to take over. ... Having Robert Garcia in my corner is a huge advantage."
Rodriguez, whose brother Joshua Franco holds a secondary title at 115 pounds, said he could campaign at 112 pounds before returning to the weight class.
"He's a very underrated fighter and it's a matter of time until he gets his shot," Rodriguez said of Franco, who is ESPN's No. 6 junior bantamweight.
Rungvisai, ESPN's No. 3 boxer at 115 pounds, lost for just the second time since a 2014 technical decision defeat to Carlos Cuadras. And it was Cuadras whom Rodriguez defeated in February to announce his arrival and pick up his first world title, though Estrada remains the WBC's franchise champion in the weight class.
What's next: After that kind of performance, it'd be hard to favor even Gonzalez or Estrada over Rodriguez. The combination of clean punching, excellent southpaw jab and incredible footwork should prove too much for most fighters.
While he appears more than ready for both elite fighters now, his brother Joshua Franco or Gonzalez figures to land a fight with Estrada next. If it is Franco who fights Estrada in the fall, that could open the door for a summit meeting between Rodriguez and Gonzalez.
Or, as Rodriguez suggested, he could chase a title at 112 pounds, where talented boxers Sunny Edwards and Junto Nakatani are the cream of the crop. He could even return to 108 pounds, where he has fought but never challenged for a title.
No matter what Rodriguez does next, it's clear he isn't too far away from a spot on the pound-for-pound list.
Round 8: "Bam" Rodriguez with the TKO 8 victory over Rungvisai to retain his WBC junior bantamweight title in a masterclass! Barrage of punches with Rungvisai pinned on the ropes lead to the referee stoppage. What a performance. This kid is special.
Round 7: Rodriguez floors Rungvisai with a left hand and pours on the punishment late in the round. What a performance. And what a statement it would be if he could stop him. 10-8, Rodriguez. 70-62, Rodriguez.
Round 6: Rodriguez's footwork, southpaw jab, speed and use of angles are far too much for the plodding Rungvisai, who isn't able to consistently apply pressure in the face of the moving target. 10-9, Rodriguez. 60-54, Rodriguez.
Round 5: More of the same from Rodriguez, who continues to win each round in dominant fashion. Just a tremendous display of boxing so far from a 22-year-old who's advanced beyond his years. 10-9, Rodriguez. 50-45, Rodriguez.
Round 4: Masterful stuff from Rodriguez through four. He's not just evading Rungvisai's power shots but is making the Thai fighter pay with a series of sharp overhand lefts that continue to land clean. No answers from Rungvisai yet but we know how tough and dangerous he is late in fights. 10-9, Rodriguez. 40-36, Rodriguez.
Round 3: Rungvisai applying more pressure but unable to find a home for those looping power shots. Rodriguez continues to use angles and movement along with sharp, clean punching to win rounds and keep Rungvisai at bay. 10-9, Rodriguez. 30-27, Rodriguez.
Round 2: "Bam" Rodriguez able to keep Rungvisai off-rhythm with a steady diet of jabs and feints. Beautiful boxing from the 22-year-old. Rungvisai has heavy hands but needs his feet set to deliver them. 10-9, Rodriguez. 20-18, Rodriguez.
Round 1: Rungvisai landed a big shot early in the round, but Rodriguez took over in the final 30 seconds with a series of clean shots set up by his excellent jab that could set the tone for the fight. 10-9, Rodriguez.
Akhmadaliev finishes Rios late to score TKO victory
Murodjon Akhmadaliev retained his IBF and WBA "super" junior featherweight titles with a 12th-round TKO of Ronny Rios.
The Olympic bronze medalist from Uzbekistan buckled Rios with a left hand to the body before he punished him with a barrage of punches to the face to produce the first knockdown of the fight.
Rios beat the count but Akhmadaliev pressed for the finish and unloaded shots until the referee stopped the bout with 54 seconds remaining in the contest.
"Unfortunately in the second round I hurt my left hand when I buckled him," said Akhmadaliev, ESPN's No. 2 junior bantamweight. " ... My corner told me, 'Just go ahead, forget about the pain and we'll deal with it later.' ... Maybe he landed a couple of shots on me but that's it."
Akhmadaliev (11-0, 8 KOs) hurt Rios in Round 4 after he dug a left hand to the body before he unleashed a flurry of power shots to the head. The 27-year-old southpaw boxed beautifully, using his excellent jab and the right hook off the lead punch to rack up points.
Akhmadaliev was able to control range and turn Rios around any time he closed distance. It was the third defense of the two junior bantamweight titles he won from Daniel Roman in January 2020,
Rios (33-4, 16 KOs) was challenging for a title for the second time. The 32-year-old from Southern California dropped a unanimous decision to Rey Vargas in a 2017 title fight. Rios, who entered the ring rated No. 9 by ESPN at 122 pounds, was slated to fight Akhmadaliev in November before he was diagnosed with COVID and the fight was postponed.
What's next: Hopefully, it's a fight against fellow unified champion Stephen Fulton for the undisputed 122-pound championship. Like Akhmadaliev, the Philadelphian holds two junior bantamweight titles. It's a fascinating fight that figures to deliver nonstop action, but boxing politics could provide a roadblock.
Akhmadaliev is promoted by Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing and competes exclusively on DAZN. Fulton, who is with PBC and fights on Showtime, tweeted "Man, let's make the fight happen. Easy work."
Akhmadaliev, when asked if he wants Fulton next, said, "I'll fight anyone."
McCaskill makes Ibarra quit, retains all four belts
Jessica McCaskill retained her undisputed welterweight championship with a fourth-round stoppage of Alma Ibarra.
McCaskill (12-2, 5 KOs) appeared to land power shots at will and seemed well on her way to victory when Ibarra surprisingly refused to come out for Round 4, after complaining to her trainer that the champion was holding too much.
McCaskill stunned Ibarra (10-2, 5 KOs) in the opening round and was in control until the closing moments of Round 3 when she delivered a hook that caught the 34-year-old Mexican's attention.
The 37-year-old champion from Chicago has now made three defenses of the four 147-pound titles she won from Cecilia Braekhus in August 2020.
What's next: There doesn't appear to be anyone currently competing at welterweight who can present a stern challenge for McCaskill. For her to truly be tested, she might have to move down in weight to face IBF and WBC champion Chantelle Cameron. McCaskill said during the postfight interview that she wants to face Cameron next.
McCaskill, who is rated No. 4 pound-for-pound by ESPN, could also seek out a title at 154 pounds against Natasha Jonas or Marie-Eve Dicaire.
Ford dominates Medina to stay unbeaten
Ray Ford remained undefeated with a unanimous-decision victory over Richard Medina Jr. in a 10-round featherweight bout.
The 23-year-old from Camden, New Jersey, used his superior strength, speed and boxing ability to prevail via shutout on two cards 100-90, along with a 99-91 score.
Ford (12-0-1, 6 KOs) connected on 181 punches to just 79 from Medina, a 21-year-old fighting in his hometown of San Antonio.
Ford, who's signed with Matchroom Boxing, was coming off a split-decision victory over Edward Vazquez in February. Medina lost for the first time as a pro and is now 13-1 with seven KOs.