LAS VEGAS—With several potential future match-ups staring at him as he entered the ring, Saul “Neno” Rodriguez stepped into the ring to face dangerous Ivan Najera with all eyes on upon him.
Could he pass the test?
After less than one round Riverside’s Rodriguez blasted San Antonio’s Najera out before a boisterous crowd at the Chelsea in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Friday. Sitting in the front rows were potential future opponents Felix Verdejo and current junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford.
The fight lasted exactly 2:06 as Rodriguez quickly jumped on Najera with a left hook that ballooned the eye of the Texan immediately. They circled around each other cautiously, flicking punches and combinations and stepping out of each other’s danger zone.
Rodriguez fired a left jab and a right uppercut that connected, but not solidly. It was obvious he found a hole for his combinations. Najera gamely kept his composure ready for an opening. Instead, a Rodriguez right to the shoulder and left hook to the head snapped Najera’s head violently and down he went.
As Najera was getting his count from referee Kenny Bayless, Rodriguez stood calmly in the neutral corner as cool as an iceberg in Alaska. Sitting just below where Rodriguez was standing, was champion Crawford peering up at the lean Southern Californian slugger. It was as if he was sizing him up for someone to meet in the future.
“I knew he was hurt. His legs were shaky,” said Rodriguez. “I had to be careful though because he could still be dangerous. I had to pick him apart punch by punch.”
The fight resumed and Rodriguez flipped on the switch as he headed toward Najera with torpedoes locked and loaded for action. Rodriguez launched a four-punch combination and down went Najera again, for the final time. His once loud support cast fell silent. The referee waved the fight over.
In the audience was another baby-faced assassin, Verdejo, who earlier this year defeated Najera by decision. You wonder what went through his mind?
“I took pictures with him after the fight,” said Rodriguez, not showing any signs of anxiety about facing the Puerto Rican prospect who shares a similar record and similar power stats. “I really don’t think about the next fight. I let my manager think about those things. I just keep working on my craft; trying to get better every day.”
Nearby HBO television executives looked on. Could Rodriguez be the future?
“That’s good if they’re interested,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the next step. I just have to keep getting better. It’s easy when you spar with guys like Mikey Garcia and Brandon Rios. They make you better. You learn in the ring.”
Mexico’s Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (33-0, 24 Kos) defended the WBO International super middleweight title to win by unanimous decision over Netherland’s Gevorg Katchikian (from Armenia; 23-2, 11 Kos). Ramirez pounded his way to victory over Katchikian, who lost his tasted for combat after some punishing body shots in the fourth round. After that, he went into survival mode and tried to pot shot his way to victory. Ramirez pounded and pounded at Katchikian who took away the body shot but took himself out his own firing range. The judges scored it 100-90 twice and 99-91 for Ramirez.
Russia’s Konstantin Ponomarev (29-0, 13 Kos) won by majority decision over Mexico’s Ramses Agaton (17-3-3, 9 Kos) to remain undefeated. Just this week Agaton was approved by the Nevada Commission after the original opponent from Germany pulled out. The Mexican southpaw proved durable and crafty as he stayed competitive in every round of the welterweight match. But Ponomarev pressured Agaton against the ropes in almost every round and fired blows like a machine nonstop. Agaton had some moments by punching in-between the Russian’s constant punching especially in the seventh round. But Ponomarev’s durability and constant punching dictated the pace. One judge scored it a draw while the other two saw it 79-73 for Ponomarev.
Austin’s Casey Ramos (21-0, 5 Kos) used a constant body attack to keep Philippine Island’s Adones Aguelo from mounting any kind of serious attack. After eight rounds Ramos swept all three judge’s cards 80-72. There were no knockdowns.
Ukraine’s Oleksandr Gvozdyk (8-0, 4 Kos) blasted out Brazil’s Cleiton Conceicao (20-8-2) with body shots in the second round. A left to the body sent the Brazilian to the floor. He beat the count and was met with a right hand and down he went for good at 50 seconds of the second round. “Only the (Sergey) Krusher hits harder than me,” said Gvozdyk.
Southpaw speedster Toka Kahn Clary (17-0-1, 11 Kos) floored Mexico’s Sergio Lopez (18-11-1, 12 Kos) in the second round with a right hook. Though Lopez beat the count a left cross from Clary at the end of the round had Lopez on spaghetti legs. The corner very wisely stopped the fight at the end of round two. Rhode Island’s Clary wins the super featherweight fight by second round knockout. “I want to fight (Vasyl) Lomachenko next year,” said Clary.