Jesse Rodriguez: ‘I’m not here to be an average fighter’

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Jesse Rodriguez was supposed to be in over his head when he faced Carlos Cuadras in February. Instead, the fight became a launching pad.

Rodriguez was set to take part in a 108-pound bout on the undercard of the show in Phoenix. However, when Cuadras’ opponent, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, had to pull out because of illness, Rodriguez agreed to move up two weight classes to 115 to take on the Mexican veteran.

And “Bam” surprised both Cuadras and the boxing world, outboxing the former champion to win a clear decision and a secondary WBC title at only 22 years old. (Juan Francisco Estrada is the “franchise” champion.)

Now Rodriguez (15-0, 10 KOs) is scheduled to defend against Sor Rungvisai – the two-time victor over Roman Gonzalez – on Saturday in San Antonio, Rodriguez’s hometown (DAZN).

“I believe Rungvisai is the toughest title defense I could’ve taken,” Rodriguez said Thursday at the final news conference. “But, you know, I’m not here to be an average fighter. These kind of fights produce special fighters. That’s why I took it.

“… I was the one who replaced him when he got sick, so why not choose Rungvisai. Let’s do something special.”

Rodriguez had begun to earn a reputation as an excellent boxer. The upset of Cuadras merely left no doubt about his abilities. And the fact he moved up weight to do it was truly eye-opening, although he has fought above 108 in the past.

Sor Rungvisai (50-5-1 43 KOs) is a career 115-pounder and one of the most punishing punchers in the sport pound-for-pound, as he demonstrated by brutally stopping “Chocolatito” in their second fight.

And Rodriguez said at the news conference that he probably will go down to 112 after the fight on Saturday and pursue titles there, meaning that’s a more natural weight for him.

Will he be able to withstand the Thai fighter’s strength and punching power?

“Yeah, he does carry power,” Rodriguez said of his opponent. “But power doesn’t win you fights, skill does. That’s where my skills are going to come in, and I’ll be able to take over the fight. Like I said, power doesn’t win fights.”

Rodriguez will have one obvious advantage, assuming the pressure to succeed doesn’t get the better of him.

He’ll be fighting in front of his hometown fans as a conquering hero.

“That means everything to me,” he said. “It’s the biggest fight of my caeer. Becoming world champion is one thing. Being able to defend it in my hometown, in front of my hometown crowd means everything. So it will be a special night that night.”

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