Chow Time – Saul “Neno” Rodriguez has a motto he mutters while in the gym: “Eat, or get ate.”
It’s another version of a familiar mantra of “do or die,” “kill or be killed,” and “get them before they get you.”
No other sport fits those mantras better than boxing. Prizefighting is perhaps the deadliest sport of all and pairs one solitary human being against another. All other sports use similar phrases to invoke danger and struggle in their sport, like pro basketball, a team sport where giant men flop to the ground from the slightest touch to incur a foul. It’s very unmanly.
Eat or get ate has become Rodriguez’s motto every day since he strapped on boxing gloves at an early age. Even more so now that he’s dealing at the professional level against foes with equal power, speed, stamina and skills.
On Saturday, Rodriguez (19-0-1, 14 KOs) faces the 29-year-old Colombian knockout puncher Daulis Prescott (31-3, 23 KOs) at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City. Top Rank will also televise the card on UniMas on delay (11 pm ET/PT). It’s eat or get ate.
“For this fight I sparred Speedy Mares, Hector Tanajara, Mikey Garcia a lot,” said Rodriguez, 23. “I don’t think he’s going to be better than any of my sparring partners.”
Still, the Riverside, Calif.-based prizefighter has learned after more than four years under tutelage of Eduardo Garcia and his son Robert Garcia, that wielding firepower is not enough in the upper tiers of prizefighting. Mistakes can prove costly.
“I know what to do and I know how to fight. Just be patient and don’t look for a knockout. I know I have power but I don’t need to prove it right away. I have to be smart first,” said Rodriguez whose last fight was a first round knockout against Ivan Najera, who went the distance with Felix Verdejo. “Five years training with Eduardo and Big G (Robert Garcia), I feel a lot has changed. I’m a lot better fighter. I’m more tactical. I’m not just a brawler. I can box. Every fight I’m going to improve. I’m going to be better than my last fight.”
So far Rodriguez has blazed a path of knockouts against rugged opponents. Many of the victims, not well known to the casual observer, are well known to the experts.
“One of the toughest maybe, I feel like Ramses Luna was pretty tough. I beat him by decision,” said Rodriguez. “He had never been dropped and never been down. He was crafty.”
Along the way Rodriguez has encountered sluggers, clinchers, runners, hitters and iron jaw opponents usually reserved for contenders. When he knocked out Najera in his last fight last year, he had an interested audience with Felix Verdejo and Terence Crawford sitting ringside.
“I’ll fight Verdejo,” says Rodriguez.
But first, he has the ultra-dangerous Prescott.
“He’s tough he’s a veteran. He’s definitely tough. I don’t think there’s too much I can’t handle,” said Rodriguez. “It’s going to look good on my resume.”
Or, perhaps on a dinner plate?
It’s eat, or get ate.