New Faces: Saul Rodriguez
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Hometown: Riverside, Calif.
Weight class: Junior lightweight
Height / reach: 5-foot-8 (173 cm)/ 67 inches (170 cm)
Amateur record: 80-20
Turned pro: 2011
Pro record: 16-0-1, 13 knockouts
Trainers: Robert Garcia, Saul Rodriguez Sr., Eduardo Garcia
Manager: Cameron Dunkin
Promoter: Top Rank Inc.
Best night of pro career: Rodriguez is a born puncher who has scored several brutal knockouts in his career so far. His best performance was last April.
“Probably versus Miguel Zamudio,” Rodriguez told RingTV.com. “His record was nice, he was 29-3-1, and I knocked him out in the fourth round.
“It was a pretty devastating knockout; he was on the ground for a few minutes and then, thankfully, he got up and he was OK.”
“‘Solo Boxeo‘ on UniMas, they choose five knockouts for best knockouts of the year – they chose that one as fourth best and when I fought the Argentinean (Juan Roman Solis) they chose that one as the second best knockout. So I got two out of five.”
Worst night of pro career: Most of Rodriguez‘s wins have been by knockout. However, there is one slight blemish on his record, a technical draw against Cesar Garcia in October 2012.
“The one I don‘t like is the draw,” he said. “It was a headbutt. I felt like I was about to stop him, I was beating him up. It was really a stoppage but ruled a headbutt, but there was no headbutt because I fought the week after. I don‘t like the way it looks on my record.“
Next fight: Rodriguez was due to return just three weeks after stopping Carlos Rodriguez in January, only for it to be called off on late notice. A bout of chickenpox curtailed a March fight.
He headlines this week‘s edition of “Solo Boxeo,” against Antonio Capulio (14-0, 6 KOs) in Hollywood, California, in a scheduled eight-rounder.
“It‘s supposed to be a step–up fight, he‘s a tough opponent,” Rodriguez said of his opponent. “I feel I‘m going to do good. I‘m training hard so I‘ll be ready. I‘m not worried; I‘m just going to do what I do and tend to do and I‘ll be OK.“
Why he’s a prospect: Rodriguez was a decent amateur, although he doesn’t believe he achieved as much as he could have.
“Politics held me back,” commented Rodriguez. “Sometimes funds to go to a big tournament weren‘t there. My amateur career was OK, but I had the potential to do a lot more.“
Rodriguez turned professional at 18 after fighting in just two senior tournaments. The most notable names on his amateur ledger are 2012 U.S. Olympian Jose Ramirez, who won a decision. Rodriguez did stop current featherweight prospect Kevin Rivers in three rounds in the unpaid ranks.
Rodriguez works with Eduardo and Robert Garcia in Riverside, California, and makes the two-hour commute to Oxnard to spar with the likes of two-weight champion Mikey Garcia, Jesus Cuellar, Evgeny Gradovich and Javier Garcia.
The 22-year-old estimates he has sparred hundreds of rounds with Mikey Garcia and around 100 with IBF 126-pound champion Gradovich.
Unsurprisingly, Rodriguez lists his power as his biggest attribute: “I can change a fight with one punch.” But there’s more to him than that.
“I have a lot of heart,” he said. “My body looks deceiving, my face looks deceiving. People don‘t expect me to hit as hard as I do, just because of how I look. I look young. My body isn‘t super big or cut but I‘m naturally strong.“
Robert Garcia, famed for working with the likes of Marcos Maidana, Brandon Rios and Nonito Donaire, has high hopes for the youngster.
“He‘s one of my top prospects right now that should be a future world champion,” said Garcia. “He‘s going to have a big year and going to make a lot of noise. He‘s got this fight and then hopefully three or four more this year and by the end of the year he should be ranked in the top 10 in the world.
“He‘s a very powerful kid; he has power in both hands. He‘s very dedicated and has tremendous heart.“
“[The power’s] just natural. The most important thing is he believes in his power, so when he goes
into the ring he knows he can knock anybody out. [His power] is very comparable to Mikey and Donaire.
“I think he still needs a few more fights to develop into a full-grown man but he is very close to getting there.”
Why he’s a suspect: So far Rodriguez has looked impressive offensively. However, he’s still learning the nuances of the sport.
“I feel like my defense is getting better, I‘m working my jab a lot more. My jab is getting better and I‘m able to be more accurate.
“I‘m getting better because of the experience and I‘m maturing as a fighter. I‘m learning as I‘m going. I still feel I‘m only going to get better and improve every fight.“
Rodriguez says there are some areas he’s looking to improve: “Maybe just box a little more and be more defensive instead of being as offensive.“
Garcia is working to make Rodriguez is a more rounded professional prizefighter.
“We just need to be patient, take our time. He‘s only a baby, he‘s still very young. That‘s my job, Cameron Dunkin‘s job and the kid just performs.“
Garcia concedes his fighter could fall in love with his own power: “It is dangerous but that’s my job to keep him focused and keep him thinking the right way.”
Story lines: Rodriguez wanted to box when he was just 5 years old, but had to wait until he was 7 before he was allowed.
“My parents didn’t want to take me [to a boxing gym],” Rodriguez said. “They took my sister ice-skating and I used to tell them they didn’t like me ‘cuz they didn’t take me to what I like and they took her to what she wanted.
“They took me to a boxing gym in L.A. After a week they put me up to spar and I got beat up. I was crying and they were like, ‘Ohh, he doesn’t want to box anymore.’ The next day my dad got back home from work and I was outside with my gym bag ready.”
From then onward Rodriguez, who lives with his parents and sister, was hooked.
He hopes to win a world championship at 130, make good money and invest it so he can live a comfortable life after boxing.
Unsurprisingly, his boxing hero is Mike Tyson: “I like the energy he brought to the ring when he fought – the style and excitement and the spectacular knockouts. I liked that.”
Sept. 23 – William Fisher – KO 1
Nov. 11 – Rocco Espinoza – TKO 1
Jan. 12 – Henry Hernandez – TKO 1
March 31 – Ricardo Valencia – TKO 1
June 8 – Kevin Davila – UD 4
Aug. 4 – Jose Morales – KO 3
Oct. 13 – Cesar Garcia – D 2
Oct. 20 – Quincy Johnson – UD 4
Dec. 15 – Pablo Batres – UD 4
Feb. 16 – Luis Viedas – KO 2
July 13 – Dominic Coca – TKO 3
Nov. 16 – Cesar Valenzuela – TKO 3
Feb. 15 – Jose Iniguez – KO 2
Apr. 26 – Miguel Zamudio – KO 4
Aug. 2 – Orlando Vazquez – TKO
Dec. 6 – Juan Ramon Solis – TKO 6
Jan. 17 – Carlos Rodriguez – KO 2
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright