Emmanuel Rodriguez: ‘I know I’m fighting in Paul Butler’s backyard but no excuses’
The heavy-handed Emmanuel Rodriguez will face Englishman Paul Butler for the vacant IBF bantamweight title in the chief supporting bout to the Tony Bellew-David Haye rematch at the 02 Arena in London on Saturday.
Rodriguez, who is rated No. 8 by THE RING at 118 pounds, arrived in the U.K on Saturday, and the unbeaten Puerto Rican is excited about the prospect of fighting in front of British fans on such a big card. It will be his first world title opportunity and he plans to take full advantage.
“I was waiting to fight in London for a long time,” Rodriguez told RingTV.com. “I’m happy to travel there and show my skills in front of some of the best fans of the world. It’s great exposure, I can’t wait.
“(Butler’s) a great boxer; good left hook, right body shots, good boxing skills, great experience, great local support, but every fight is different because styles make fights.
“I think I’m stronger and faster than him, but he is smart and knows how to adapt. I will go there and put pressure on him but in an intelligent way, not just swinging wild punches. I’m working on different fighting styles to beat him by KO or decision.”
Rodriguez (17-0, 12 knockouts) hasn’t fought since a fourth-round stoppage win over Giovanni Delgado last August. Following that victory, he had a two week break before heading back to the Cataño Municipal Boxing Gym in Puerto Rico.
Since that time he’s stayed in shape, training under the watchful eye of Victor ‘Cano’ Ortiz, while patiently waiting for a world title shot.
“[It’s been] a long ride,” said Rodriguez. “[Then IBF titleholder Lee] Haskins, [former IBF titleholder Ryan] Burnett [who vacated], Omar Narvaez, [ranked IBF contender] and Rodrigo Guerrero have declined to fight me.
“Also, Butler on one occasion declined an interim IBF fight against me. I was always available to travel to England or Argentina for Narvaez [in an IBF title eliminator]. I was always ready with a big yes every time I was asked to fight one of them.”
This fight marks the first time Rodriguez has fought outside the U.S. and its domiciles. But the 25-year-old boxer-puncher has a deep amateur pedigree of over 180 fights and travelled frequently during international competition.
“As an amateur I travelled the world,” Rodriguez said. “I have good victories, like a gold medal in the Singapore 2010 Olympics Youth Games. Burnett won gold too, but I was awarded the best fighter of the tournament. I’m very confident.
“I want to be a champion no matter where I’m fighting at. I know I’m fighting in Butler’s backward but no excuses. Let’s do a great fight for the fans, and (afterwards) my biggest desire is that Butler and I can leave in good shape. We got families, friends and fans that care about us.”
Rodriguez’s handler, Fernando Gaztambide, is pleased to have finally procured a world title bout for his fighter.
“It means everything to us,” said Gaztambide. “It’s really bad when lots of boxers of great recognition decided not to face Rodriguez for a world title, or interim titles, in their hometown, in front of their people.
“The good things are that Rodriguez is always focused, and boxing fans know that great fighters are avoiding Rodriguez. That in a way is good because people want to see how Rodriguez will perform against Butler.”
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