MANILA, Philippines – Unbeaten junior welterweight prospect Julian Rodriguez will round out Manny Pacquiao’s sparring stable ahead of his April 12 rematch with WBO welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas.
The 19-year-old Rodriguez (3-0, 2 knockouts) of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. will join Pacquiao’s camp next week when the eight-division world champion relocates from his home town of General Santos City, Philippines to the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.
“I’m so honored and excited,” said Rodriguez. “This is going to be such a great experience for me. But I do realize that it's not all about me and my experience, but about helping getting Manny ready.”
Rodriguez, a 2012 U.S. Olympic alternate in the 141-pound division, won every conceivable boxing accolade as a Junior Olympian, finishing up with a reported record of 221-9. Rodriguez concluded his amateur career by winning the 2012 National Golden Gloves and turned pro in November of last year.
Joining Rodriguez in Los Angeles will be fellow New Jersey native and former WBO junior welterweight titleholder Kendall Holt, as well as former WBO junior lightweight titleholder Steve Forbes. Unbeaten lightweight Haskell Rhodes is already in the Philippines sparring with Pacquiao.
Rodriguez, who is trained by his father Alex Devia and signed to Top Rank, is also managed by Pat Lynch, who manages former Pacquiao sparring partner Glen Tapia.
Tapia (20-1, 12 KOs), who helped Pacquiao prepare for his 2010 fight against Antonio Margarito, has already primed Rodriguez on what to expect in the ring with Pacquiao.
“I remember talking to him a long time ago about it,” said Rodriguez. “He mentioned that he was very fast, but what really made him difficult was his footwork. When you watch Manny on TV, you may not see it, but when you're in that ring with him, it's a whole different story.”
Rodriguez says he believes the 35-year-old Pacquiao (55-5-3, 38 KOs) will come out victorious over the 30-year-old Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs) in the rematch of their controversial first fight in 2012, which Bradley won by split-decision.
“I just think he's a lot more focused now,” said Rodriguez. “I feel like if he fixes some of the mistakes he made in the first fight, he'd beat Bradley. He's way too sharp for Bradley.”
Pacquiao will leave General Santos City on Saturday on a private plane and is scheduled to begin work in Los Angeles on Monday.
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected] An archive of his work can be found at ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.