Knockout punchers aren’t born every day, but even as an amateur Saul “Neno” Rodriguez exhibited rare punching power, despite the larger gloves and head gear.
He’s a man now, though thin and wiry, he has that rare and unique ability to stop opponents cold with left hooks or right hands. Pick your poison. Sort of a like a 21st century version of Alexis Arguello. When he connects his opponents feel it.
Next on the Rodriguez (14-0-1, 11 Kos) hit list will be Argentina’s Juan Ramon Solis (21-8, 8 Kos), a veteran of 30 bouts. They’ll meet in a super featherweight match on Saturday, Dec. 6, at Glendale Civic Auditorium. The Top Rank card will have some bouts televised on UniMas.
When Top Rank signed Rodriguez a couple of years ago, Rodriguez was still learning the pro game under trainer Eduardo Garcia. The old sage who taught Fernando Vargas and both sons Robert and Mikey Garcia saw something in Rodriguez that enticed him to work personally with the youngster from Riverside.
Rodriguez always showed speed and power in his punches, but he was wide open for counters when he entered the pro ranks. As an amateur he could dispense with defense for his own explosive offense.
“They’re always talking to me about defense,” said Rodriguez about his stable mate Mikey Garcia and trainer Eduardo Garcia. “They’re always telling me to tighten my defense.”
Rodriguez spars often with Garcia, who just may be one of the top 10 boxers pound for pound in the world. If you leave an opening for Garcia he instantly capitalizes with deadly precision as his record shows. He’s won titles as a featherweight and junior lightweight. Now he’s moving up to lightweight or junior welterweight.
“I learn a lot from Mikey,” says Rodriguez.
When he goes to Oxnard to train under Robert Garcia he has the whole Oxnard training membership to work against. It’s served him perfectly to this point. Now he is on the verge of breaking into the next level where the monsters roam.
In his last two fights the competition was stiff and was supposed to take him to the later rounds. It didn’t happen. Rodriguez blitzed through Puerto Rico’s Orlando Vazquez in two rounds and finished him with an uppercut that left British television broadcasters half a world away in awe. Before that, Miguel Zamudio was prancing along trying to use his length and movement to keep the dangerous Rodriguez at bay. He was feeling kind of good about himself when a left and right came out of the dark and down he went.
In the old amateur days Rodriguez was a pretty good attraction all by himself. Whenever his bout would come up crowds would form around the ring because they knew some hard-hitting was about to happen. The lanky Riversider seldom disappointed.
Now 21, Rodriguez has begun to attract the pro crowd who see his blazing hands and attack dog mentality always set on go. Can he be the next Arguello?
It’s a dangerous road he’s on and it begins this Saturday against an Argentine fighter who has never fought in the U.S.
“Argentines can awkward,” said Rodriguez. “But my amateur experience helps me adjust to any fighter.”
Brian Viloria (34-4, 20 Kos) meets Armando Vazquez (21-11, 4 Kos) in a flyweight bout set for 10 rounds. The former junior flyweight and flyweight world champion seeks one more title opportunity. The former U.S. Olympian has been a pro for more than 14 years.
Jose Felix Jr. (27-1-1, 22 Kos) faces Luis Solis (15-5-4, 12 Kos) in an eight round super featherweight match. Felix is trying to get back into the world title mix after losing to Costa Rica’s Bryan Vazquez this past April.