Thursday, December 08, 2022  |



Even before opponent switch, Emmanuel Rodriguez had been studying Reymart Gaballo

Emmanuel Rodriguez. Photo by Shabba Shafiq/ SW33TSCIENCE Photgraphy

It’s been a difficult 19-months for Emmanuel Rodriguez. The last time the skilled Puerto Rican stepped inside the ring he went from defending titleholder to ex-titleholder in just 4 minutes 19 seconds.

Rodriguez had held the IBF bantamweight title until he met Japanese power-puncher Naoya Inoue. He was confident of victory and didn’t believe anyone could do what Inoue did to him.

“Losing is always hard and more [so] when it’s a super important fight to secure [your] legacy but this is not over,” Rodriguez (19-1, 12 knockouts) told The Ring through Fernando Gaztambide. “I’m learning from my mistakes and I will prove to be better. 

“I just think that everything happens for a reason and my time is now. As you may know, I’m always ready and available to fight the best and will continue to do so.”

Since that disastrous night in May 2019, he’s done a lot of soul searching. The 28-year-old had been scheduled to return last October in a comeback fight but was then offered a bigger bout against former WBC titlist Luis Nery. However, the Mexican missed weight and the fight was cancelled at the 11th hour.

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed any possible return in the first half of 2020. Rodriguez waited patiently for something and when WBC 118-pound titlist Nordine Oubaali tested positive for COVID-19, Rodriguez was called up from the bullpen to face Nonito Donaire for the now vacant WBC bantamweight crown. Last week things took another turn when Donaire tested positive for the virus, meaning Reymart Gaballo moved from the undercard to face Rodriguez for the vacant interim WBC title.

The two meet on Showtime (9 p.m. ET/ 6 PT) at the Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut on Saturday.

Rodriguez , who is rated No. 4 by The Ring at 118-pounds, is thankful to be fighting after the extended period away from boxing.

“The important thing here is that I’m fighting,” said Rodriguez. “When I train, I spar with different types of sparring partners. It’s not the first time in my career that I suffered a last-minute change of opponent. I’m ready, no excuses.”

Although Rodriguez didn’t expect to be facing the Filipino, he isn’t worried about the late notice.

“I know him because I studied all my possible opponents,” he said. “He is very strong and capable but my boxing skills will overcome him.”

Rodriguez learned a valuable lesson against Inoue and intends to implement it against Gaballo and going forward in his career.

“I’m a boxer that should use his boxing technique rather than be looking for the knockout in the first half of the fight,” he explained “Changes have been made in the sense of training with a purpose. We have established plan A, B and C for Gaballo. It’s easy to talk but on fight night I’ll show what I’m capable of.”

You wonder if having the veneer of champion removed will leave Rodriguez gun shy against Gaballo.

As is the case around the world it has been difficult to for boxers to train, it’s been no different for Rodriguez, in his homeland.

“Most of the boxing gyms in Puerto Rico belong to the government and due to the COVID they have been kept closed,” explained Rodriguez. “Only a few are open and you have to plan everything. 

“I trained very hard with Freddy Trinidad, for 10 weeks, and we are going to get the victory.”

Juan Ivan Orengo of Fresh Promotions is looking forward to the prospect of his fighter finally returning to action.

“Once we heard about the change, there was no turning back,” said the promoter. “We want to fight anybody and sooner or later, that green and gold belt will touch Puerto Rico’s soil. Manny is ready.”

Gaballo turned professional in 2014. The unbeaten Filipino scored a career best win over then unbeaten Stephon Young (UD 12) in March 2018. He has since fought between America and the Philippines. The big-punching Gaballo enters with a 23-0 (20 KOs) record.

As well as the Rodriguez-Gaballo main event, the Showtime telecast will feature Jaron Ennis-Chris Van Heerden and Gary Antonio Russell-Juan Carlos Payano.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on  Twitter @AnsonWainwright