Saul Rodriguez: ‘The hard work is beginning to pay off’
Once they graduate high school, most 18-year-olds join the work force, enlist in the military or head off to college.
Saul Rodriguez took a different course, becoming a professional prizefighter.
Since turning pro over four years ago, Rodriguez has become a hot prospect and is on the cusp of becoming a legit contender sooner than expected.
Rodriguez (18-0-1, 13 knockouts) will fight Ivan Najera this Friday night inside the Chelsea Ballroom at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The 10-round lightweight bout will precede the main event between super middleweights Gilberto Ramirez and Gevorg Khatchikian.
Both bouts will be televised live on truTV’s “MetroPCS Friday Night Knockout,” beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Rodriguez is one of Top Rank Promotions’ top young fighters. The Riverside, Calif. resident has passed every modest test throughout his pro career.
The 22-year-old has impressed thus far with his improved skill-set, which complements his punching power, making some believe he has yet to hit his ceiling. Rodriguez is co-trained by Eduardo and Robert Garcia.
“I’m always learning,” Rodriguez told RingTV in a phone interview earlier this week. “I want to continue be a better fighter. To be better than in my previous fight. I watch videos of my fights and I work hard to correct any mistakes I make. I try to do the best I can.”
Rodriguez was impressive in his last bout on Aug. 22, winning a one-sided, eight-round decision over Ramsey Luna.
He faces a more-formidable opponent in Najera on Friday. In his last bout, Najera lost a 10-round unanimous decision to Felix Verdejo on June 13. Najera gave a decent account of himself, considering he was dropped twice by the popular and talented fighter from Puerto Rico.
While Najera does possess a respectable record of 16-1 (8 KOs), Rodriguez believes he has all the intangibles to be victorious.
“(Najera)’s tough and he comes forward,” said Rodriguez, who has won his last two bouts by decision after scoring eight consecutive knockout wins. “He does get back up when he gets knocked down. I just feel that I’m stronger and faster than he is. I’m smarter in the ring than he is and he hasn’t faced any other quality opponents other than Verdejo.”
Rodriguez may sound too confident but his dream of success as a fighter was implanted at an early age. He was a standout amateur and, while he did succeed in winning medals and trophies, the thought of winning championship gold and fighting on premium networks is what has kept his drive going.
“I’m very disciplined. The hard work is beginning to pay off. I fought on ‘Solo Boxeo’ (on Telefutura) and now I’m fighting on truTV. When I was younger, I had those dreams of fighting on HBO and those types of (networks). I’ve just always believed in myself and believed that through hard work, those things would happen. It’s no surprise to me that this is happening.”
Rodriguez has made a name for himself thus far as a pro. With his style and drive, there is no telling what 2016 could have in store.
While Rodriguez has fought as a lightweight as of late, there is a possibility he could wind up contender as a junior lightweight. Friday’s bout against Najera is being fought at a catchweight of 132 pounds.
“If I could make weight easily and I was offered the opportunity, I could fight for a title at 130 pounds. I just want to improve and get better. I always want to learn. I focus on my craft.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since Oct. of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing.