In the toughest test of his young career, 22 year old Jesse Rodriguez stepped up in weight on short notice against a proven champion in Carlos Cuadras. Cuadras put him to the test, but in the end, Rodriguez emerged a well-deserved victor, and the new WBC super flyweight champion.
It was a fantastic show, and a tough, smart fight from both men. Probably not enough drama or wild swings in the action to qualify as a potential Fight of the Year, but definitely a Fight of the Year of the Week. Rodriguez (15-0, 10 KO) started out confident but cautious, moving well and throwing fast while Cuadras (39-5-1, 27 KO) worked on landing hooks to the body.
Rodriguez scored a knockdown on a beautiful uppercut in round three, but Cuadras popped up and arguably won the rest of the round.
All night, we saw outstanding performances from both men. Rodriguez used movement, angles, and setups far beyond what one would expect from a 22 year old in his first title fight. Cuadras made him earn every round, landing hooks to the body and uppercuts through the hands of Rodriguez.
Official scores were 117-110 (x2) and 115-112 in favor of Rodriguez. I also had it 115-112 Rodriguez, and it’s a result that puts no shame on Carlos Cuadras. If he decides to come right back against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, his originally scheduled opponent for the night, I’d love to see it despite the loss tonight.
22 Years Old— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) February 6, 2022
The youngest world champion in boxing today pic.twitter.com/ANSbWisNFj
After the results were announced, Rodriguez called it a “tough-ass fight” and gave a lot of respect to Cuadras who he said had “the heart of a warrior.” He said he was open to staying at 115 pounds, but would take the best fight available anywhere from 108-115, including potentially the winner of Chocolatito and Julio Cesar Martinez.
For years, super flyweight has been a division blessed with a group of excellent fighters with the sort of styles that have allowed them to repeatedly showcase their greatness against each other. Cuadras still belongs in that conversation. If he decides to stay at the weight, Jesse Rodriguez proved tonight that he’s right there with the best of them.
Jamie Mitchell TKO-4 Carly Skelly
In the first defense of her WBA belt, Jamie Mitchell (8-0-2, 5 KO) took command early and unloaded her power on Carly Skelly in every round.
No disrespect to Skelly (4-1-1, 0 KO), who got up from two knockdowns that could have easily marked the end of the fight, and also refused to fall down under heavy abuse in the third and fourth. Skelly kept on coming at Mitchell for as long as the fight lasted, and also rocked a pretty sweet Ronald McDonald red hair color.
But, when the pre-fight hype leans heavily on your day job and limited experience, it’s usually not a good sign. Skelly’s effort and courage weren’t enough to bridge the gap from Mitchell’s superior skills, and this one ended by stoppage in round four.
AND STILL— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) February 6, 2022
Jamie Mitchell finishes this fight in style pic.twitter.com/jgHbhGFY8E
Raymond Ford SD-10 Edward Vazquez
Raymond Ford escaped a tough test from Edward Vazquez with a justifiable split decision on controversially wide cards.
Ford (11-0-1, 6 KO) put his fast hands to work, but Vazquez (11-1, 3 KO) figured out a path to get inside on him. Particularly in the first half of the fight, Vazquez closed the gap well, working the body nicely and having success at close range.
Depending on what you like to see from a fighter, you could make a case for either man in several swing rounds. Ford did very well when he was able to maintain separation, and picked up many of the late rounds on my card because of it. I had it 96-94 for Vazquez in the end, with the assumption that we might see anything from 6-4, maybe 7-3 either way from any judge.
Ultimately, one judge loved Ray Ford even more than I thought was possible based on his work in the ring tonight.
I didn’t see it the same way, but I can see the path to a Ford decision. 7-3 on the cards is about as generous a perspective as anyone could reasonably have in favor of him, and 8-2 is borderline nonsense. Not a robbery, but the pro-Ford scores don’t respect or reflect what we saw from Vazquez.
Eddie Hearn said afterwards that he had Ford losing the fight, and that the cards in his favor were too wide. “If you’re giving Raymond Ford eight of those rounds, you’re watching a different fight.”
The controversy also spilled over into the tunnels after the fight, where Vazquez and Ford exchanged heated words over the final result.
Fernando Diaz UD-10 Lorenzo Smith
Lorenzo Smith is a Phoenix local, and the late sub when Bam Rodriguez got elevated to the main event. He entered the night without much of a professional reputation, but exited with a performance that proved he belongs at this level, despite falling on the cards to the much more established Fernando Diaz.
Smith (10-1, 8 KO) started out well, if a bit wild. He saw some early success against Diaz (11-1-1, 3 KO) by foregoing a jab in favor of charge ahead aggression and power punches. That wild style cost cost Smith a lot of energy. As he seemed to slow down in the fourth, Diaz took command with sharp punches from the distance he wanted.
Smith got a second wind with a knockdown in the fifth that gave him a shot of adrenaline. He also showed some savvy by not pressing too hard for a finish against Diaz, who suffered a legitimate knockdown but didn’t seem damaged or in danger from it.
Diaz took control after the knockdown, piling up rounds in the second half of the fight. He launched a big assault in the last minute of round 8 that Smith survived, but obviously much worse for the exchange. Smith recovered and made a case for the 9th and 10th rounds, but didn’t quite match what we saw from Diaz.
Two judges joined Bad Left Hook with 96-93 scorecards, with the third coming in at 95-94, all in favor of Fernando Diaz.
Khalil Coe TKO-2 Dylan O’Sullivan
Whatever you thought about Khalil Coe before this fight, the evidence is still there to support your opinion. In the “promising young prospect” column: Coe (2-0-1, 2 KO) looked much more engaged than he did in his last fight. Watching him stalk down Dylan O’Sullivan (1-1, 0 KO), marking him with jabs and eventually finishing him with power punches, doesn’t do anything to undermine his potential.
If you’re skeptical, there’s still room for skepticism. Coe was often throwing way out over his own feet, and almost lost his balance on a wild power shot midway through round two. And, despite the original plan for Coe to eventually drop down and campaign at super middleweight as a pro, this one had to go off at a 180 pound catchweight. Not a positive sign after Coe came in eight pounds heavy for his second fight.
But, it ended well for Coe, and it’s on to the next challenge for him. Here’s the finish, and what seems to be a broken nose for O’Sullivan.