Tuesday, December 05, 2023  |



Jonathan Rodriguez sends Khalid Yafai into likely retirement with first round KO

November 16, 2023; Los Angeles, CA; Kal Yafai and Jonathan Rodriguez pose after the press conference for the November 18, 2023 Matchroom boxing fight card in Los Angeles, CA. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Fighters Network

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Jonathan Rodriguez made his presence known in the bantamweight division Saturday night.

Rodriguez dropped Khalid Yafai twice en route to a first round knockout victory before a shocked crowd at the YouTube Theatre. Rodriguez, who resides in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, improved to 17-1-1, 7 knockouts.

Within the first minute of the opening round, Rodriguez landed a sweeping right cross to the head, staggering Yafai before he dropped to the canvas. Yafai beat the count and was game, even landing a left hook to the head.

Moments later, Rodriguez threw a right hand to the head, which did not connect, but Yafai dropped to the canvas. Referee Thomas Taylor still administered a standing eight-count, which Yafai beat.

Yafai continued to stand in the pocket, and was clipped with a left hook to the head, staggering him towards the ropes. Rodriguez followed up, connecting with a left uppercut to the head, prompting referee Taylor to stop the fight at 2:17. 

The 24-year-old Rodriguez last fought on August 4, defeating Marvin Solano by unanimous decision. Rodriguez is now unbeaten in his last 10 bouts since losing by knockout to Manuel Flores in September 2020.

Rodriguez is promoted by Marshall Kauffman and managed by Trifon Petrov.

Yafai, who resides in Birmingham, England, falls to 27-2, 15 KOs. The 34-year-old held the WBA world junior bantamweight title before losing by knockout to Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez in February 2020. 

Yafai told Chris Mannix in the post-fight interview that Saturday was likely his last fight. 

Junior lightweight prospect Marc Castro of Fresno, California stopped Gonzalo Fuenzalida in the seventh round. Castro improved to 11-0, 8 KOs. 

Castro was the more-effective fighter from the opening round, either outboxing Fuenzalida from distance or in the pocket as both exchanged combinations. Castro mostly worked from behind a jab, connecting right crosses or straight right hands to the head.

As the fight progressed, Castro varied his offense, leading with right hands to the head or to the body of Fuenzalida. 

As the fight progressed into the second half, Fuenzalida continued to be game, but fought more in spurts. Castro was content to outbox Fuenzalida. At times, Castro would back Fuenzalida up in a corner, throwing a barrage of punches, but Fuenzalida was never hurt, fighting back and landing his own share of punches to the head of Castro.

Castro increased his punch output in round seven. He was able to put Fuenzalida on the defensive against the ropes, raining punches down, but few actually connected. Fuenzalida bobbed and weaved, but referee Ray Corona saw enough, stopping the fight at 2:31. 

Fuenzalida, who is originally from Santiago, Chile and now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, falls to 12-3, 3 KOs.

Junior lightweight prospect Jalan Walker stopped Jorge Villegas at 2:55 of the second round. Walker, who resides in Los Angeles, improved to 12-0-1, 10 KOs.

Villegas, originally from Los Mochis, Mexico and now residing in Oxnard, California, falls to 14-2, 13 KOs. 

In the opening bout of the Matchroom Boxing card, lightweight Criztec Bazaldua of Los Angeles improved to 3-0, 1 KO, stopping Pedro Angel Cruz (3-4, 2 KOs) of San Jose, California at 46 seconds of the fourth round.

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]