Sunday, June 04, 2023  |



Emmanuel ‘Salserito’ Rodriguez looks to make a name of his own

Emmanuel "Salserito" Rodriguez hits the punch mitts with trainer Nicholas Rosario. (Photo from Team Rodriguez)
Fighters Network

Emmanuel Rodriguez is used to being the victim of mistaken identity.

The 28-year-old bantamweight prospect shares a name with a former world titleholder who boxes in the same division, and also hails from Puerto Rico. There were even times during their amateur days that they were mistaken for one another.

“When I came out of the ring people would be like, ‘You don’t have the same style, you move a lot,’” said “Salserito” Rodriguez, a 9-0 (4 knockouts) prospect, not to be confused with “El Sensacional” Rodriguez, the former IBF bantamweight titleholder.

Rodriguez is looking to make his own name in the sport, continuing with his fight this Saturday against Delvin McKinley (4-1-1, 4 KOs), which headlines a card promoted by Rising Star Promotions at the Robert Treat Hotel, Newark, N.J. 

“The only little thing that I know about him is that he’s a power puncher, and he comes to fight,” said Rodriguez of McKinley, who is based in New Orleans, La. 

The eight-round bout will be a homecoming for Rodriguez, who was born in Newark before moving at five months old to Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, where he was raised until age nine. Rodriguez then spent the next five years in Newark, which is when he first became intrigued by the sport, when he spotted kids from the local boxing gym carrying championship belts at the city’s Puerto Rican Parade.

Boxing was a welcome distraction for Rodriguez, who was a hyper kid who found himself fighting outside of the ring.

“I was a little bad kid in school, I didn’t listen to my mom much,” admits Rodriguez, who fell short of graduation after being expelled from Newark’s Barringer High School for fighting.

Rodriguez channeled his energy into boxing, accumulating a 70-8 amateur record that includes New Jersey Golden Gloves and Diamond Gloves titles, as well as wins at a couple of national tournaments in Puerto Rico.

He received his nickname “Salserito” from his first trainer, Robinson Velez, who noted that the ten-year-old Rodriguez would hype himself up by taking a few dance steps before exchanging punches.

Others called him “Little Camacho” because of his mobile, stylish approach to the ring. Rodriguez, who says Hector Camacho Sr. is his favorite fighter, has worked to settle down a little more because of the greater number of rounds in the pros.

“I’m more of a stylist. I like to box, I like to use my jab a lot. I’ve got balls, you’re gonna see that the night of the fight. If I have to go forward, I will do it,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez had been living in Puerto Rico, after relocating there to spend time with his children, when he was approached by Raul “Chino” Rivas, who trains former IBF junior lightweight titleholder Tevin Farmer. Rivas invited him to return to New Jersey to turn professional, which he did in 2017, defeating Jaxel Marrero by split decision. Rodriguez’s progress has been slowed by disputes with a former manager, as well as the lack of bantamweight opponents in the American northeast.

Rodriguez’s last five bouts have taken place in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico, where fighters around his weight class are more common.

Now Rodriguez trains in South Jersey with Nicholas Rosario, working alongside former junior lightweight titleholders Farmer and Jason Sosa, plus unbeaten lightweight prospect Steven Ortiz.

Fighting in the city where he was born is a dream come true. But it’s also just one dream along the way towards greater goals.

“I got a lot of nervous but it’s a good nervous. I want to look good for my people, but that’s just really it,” said Rodriguez.

“I take boxing for what it is. This is little compared to what I want to become in boxing.”

Other bouts slated for the card include former N.J. Golden Gloves super heavyweight champion Derek Starling (3-0, 2 KOs) vs. Nathaniel Copeland (1-3, 1 KO), plus popular Union City welterweight Juan Rodriguez Jr. (13-8, 5 KOs), Kazakh junior welterweight Shyngyskhan Tazhibay (9-0, 2 KOs) and Jersey City welterweight Robert Terry (4-0, 0 KOs) in separate bouts. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the first fight scheduled for 7 p.m.

Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected]


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