|The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia -- Lineal Champion|
|BORN||June 17 1937; Camaguey, Cuba (Some sources report March 14 1937)|
|DIED||July 1 1996; Miami, Florida (Some sources report July 8 1996)|
Rodriguez was an outstanding "action" warrior who came to "git it on" - and "git it on" he did; He was an exciting two-handed fighter could box or punch, upstairs or down; He was quick, had stamina and was game; During his career, he won the Welterweight Championship of the World and the Welterweight Championship of Cuba
Luis defeated such men as Emile Griffith, Curtis Cokes, Virgil Akins, Benny "Kid" Paret, Joe Miceli, Georgie Benton, Joey Giambra, Chico Vejar, Yama Bahama, Isaac Logart, Denny Moyer, Holly Mims, Rubin Carter, Bennie Briscoe, Teddy Wright, Kid Fichique, Johnny Gonsalves, Langston Morgan, Tony Mundine, Dave Hilton and Bobby Cassidy
Herb Goldman ranked Rodriguez as the #8 All-Time Welterweight; Luis was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997
Luis Rodriguez fought from 1956 thru 1972 & was a top ranked welterweight & middleweight from 1959 until the end of his illustrious career. In the 14 years that he was world rated, he beat an unbelievable amount of top contenders & world champions. The two main reasons for his present day obscurity are that he only held the welterweight title for a brief 47 days & he had the misfortune to have his career coincide with the equally great Emile Griffith's. They met four times & Griffith won 3 of 4 by razor thin margins. Emile has been quoted in a recent Ring article as saying, "Rodriguez moved a lot. He was always busy, & he threw a lot of combinations. He was more a boxer than a puncher . . . hit & move. He drove me crazy! I guess we got to know each other a little bit. Each time was a war, & I had to make adjustments, always changing my style. Was he an all-time great fighter? I would say so."
Stylistically, Luis was an extremely long- armed pogo stick, bouncing around the ring like a kangaroo throwing blinding combinations in machine gun bursts. How's that for a mixed metaphor! As Griffith said, he was more boxer than puncher, but he had plenty of power attested by his 49 kayo's out of 107 career wins. Keep in mind, many of those kayo's were against the top middleweights of his era. Rodriguez was never really more than a skinny 147 pounder.
The list of champions & top 10 contenders (getting rated in those days really meant something ), near & all-time greats he beat is staggering. Among the champions were Benny "Kid" Paret (twice), Virgil Akins, Emile Griffith, the very under-rated Curtis Cokes & Denny Moyer. Some of the other top welters he beat were Isaac Logart, Johnny Gonsalvez, the also under-rated Frederico Thompson, L.C. Morgan, Garland Randall, & Charley Austin. At the same time he campaigned as a welter he'd jump up to 149-150 lb's. & take on & beat top middleweights in his spare time! A partial list of his middleweight victims: Wilbert "Skeeter" McClure (twice), Holly Mims, Percy Manning, Bennie Briscoe (he even beat him in Benny's hometown, Philadelphia, by decision no less!), George Benton, Ernie Buford, Jimmy Lester, Tony Mundine, Vicente Rondon, Gene Armstrong, Tom Bethea, Joey Giambra & Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Awesome.
Yet, even boasting such a sterling record, Luis Manuel is today relegated to obscurity. As I mentioned before, the short title reign & the crucial crossroads losses to Griffith are the main culprits. Hank Kaplan suggests another; as he describes it: "Rodriguez had a beautiful jab; it was so fluid. & he had this little defensive motion where he made you miss by inches. He fought everybody. . . remember he was beating Nino Benvenuti when he got caught by a left hook & was so unspectacular, that's why I think he's not remembered these days."
The Ol' Spit Bucket respectfully begs to differ. I must have seen Rodriguez fight at least 30 times. Mostly on TV & video tape (I saw him live twice); as he was a regular fixture on the Friday night broadcasts in the early 60's, before Gillette pulled their sponsorship. I found him to be an exciting if highly unorthodox boxer. When he fought the feared Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, he bipped & bopped him into utter bafflement. At one point Carter was so enraged by the futility of trying to nail Rodriguez; he bull rushed him into a corner, picked him up & actually tried to fling him over the ropes!
What most fans remember (if they do at all), are his losses to Emile Griffith. Those two guys were so evenly matched that their fights were boring. In some ways their fights were reminiscent of the Leonard vs. Benitez bout. While highly dramatic & absorbing to aficionados, to the casual fan they were a snore. Luis never went into a fight looking for a knockout. Yet, when he got a fighter hurt, he was as deadly & quick striking as a cobra. Otherwise he was content to go the distance. I never once saw him brawl. Guile not testosterone was his thang ... He was also blessed with an iron mandible. His three kayo losses were all at the tail end of his long career. The opponents were the great Nino Benvenuti & the near-great Curtis Cokes; both who were in their primes. The third was to journeyman banger Rafael Gutierrez, when Luis was on his last legs.
It gladden's what's left of the Ol' Spit Bucket's heart to see an article like the Battle of the Legends between Jose Napoles & Luis Manuel Rodriguez in the December '95 issue of Ring Magazine. The three experts chosen to evaluate this particular dream match had peerless credentials. Angelo Dundee (who trained & managed Rodriguez), Emile Griffith (who fought Rodriguez four times & Napoles once) & one of boxing's two foremost historians (the other being Herb Goldman), the esteemed Hank Kaplan. Considering what a great fighter Napoles was, I think it's really telling that all three of the "judges" picked Rodriguez to win handily. Kaplan, actually writes that Rodriguez was probably the most underrated lighter weight fighter of the past half-century! Wow! Hank Kaplan throws undo praise around about as often as Newt Gingrich attends Lollapalooza to mosh in the pit.
Kid Gavilan & Jose Napoles are generally rated as the two greatest Cuban welterweights. But take a good look at Rodriguez's career record & Gavilan's & Napoles' pale in comparison. In fact the Ol' Spit Bucket would put his money on Louis against any welter or jr. middleweight of the past 50 years with the exception of both Sugar Rays' & Emile Griffith, who seemingly had his number. Tommy Hearns & Mike McCallum would be very tough calls ... I can hear the gnashing of teeth & the howls of disdain from readers screaming "Hey you dumb! ##X**#XX! what about Duran! Basilio! Curry! Palomino! Napoles! Benvenuti!" Well, Benvenuti did kayo Luis, very late in his career, when he was way past his prime. Even so, Rodriguez was winning the bout against a peaking Nino Benvenuti, when he was caught with a picture perfect left hook in the 11th round. Nevertheless, I stand firm. I believe he would have found a way to beat any of them.
A footnote to Rodriguez's story: Few are aware of it, but Luis was a huge influence, in & out of the ring on the young, impressionable, Cassius Clay. & Both were trained by the venerable Angelo Dundee. The most obvious influences were the beautiful snake like jabs they both possessed. They also had somewhat similar styles in the ring: The constant peripatetic movement & blazing flurries. They also shared the unusual ability to inflict severe damage while backpedaling. Another was their similar personality's outside the ring. Luis' happy go lucky ways, infectious grin & constant chatter with the press & fans fit right in with young Cassius' modus operandi.
Luis Manuel Rodriguez was an artist of the fistic canvas -- a true master of his chosen craft.
Record: 107 wins (49 kayos), 13 losses, and 1 No Contest
1956 Jun 2 Lazaro H. Kessell Havana, Cuba KO 3 Jul 21 Vicente Reyes Havana, Cuba W 4 Oct 20 Julian Yanes Havana, Cuba W 4 Nov 28 Pablo Cardenas Havana, Cuba KO 2 Dec 15 Jose Hernandez Havana, Cuba NC 2 1957 Jan 12 Jose Hernandez Havana, Cuba KO 5 Feb 16 Guillermo Diaz Havana, Cuba W 6 Mar 23 Vicente Reyes Havana, Cuba W 6 May 18 Vicente Reyes Havana, Cuba W 4 Jun 22 Antonio Salas Havana, Cuba W 8 Jul 20 Guillermo Diaz Havana, Cuba NC 6 Sep 28 Gomeo Brennan Havana, Cuba W 8 Nov 15 Rolando Rodriguez Havana, Cuba W 8 1958 Feb 8 Benny "Kid" Paret Havana, Cuba W 10 Mar 29 Rolando Rodriguez Havana, Cuba KO 4 Apr 19 Tony Armenteros Havana, Cuba W 10 Jul 26 Charley Scott Havana, Cuba KO 9 Aug 9 Benny "Kid" Paret Havana, Cuba W 10 Sep 20 Kid Fichique Havana, Cuba W 12 -Welterweight Championship of Cuba Nov 22 Juan Padilla Havana, Cuba W 10 1959 Feb 21 Joe Miceli Havana, Cuba KO 5 May 9 Cecil Shorts Havana, Cuba KO 9 Jun 17 Virgil Akins Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Aug 26 Rudell Stitch Louisville, Ky W 10 Oct 3 Larry Baker Havana, Cuba W 10 Oct 21 Isaac Logart Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Dec 23 Garnett Hart Miami Beach, Fl W 10 1960 Feb 10 Carl Hubbard Miami Beach, Fl KO 4 Mar 2 Chico Vejar Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Apr 7 Alvaro Guiterrez Los Angeles, Ca KO 4 May 26 Alfredo Cota Los Angeles, Ca KO 2 Jul 6 Virgil Akins Louisville, Ky W 10 Aug 17 Basil Campbell Havana, Cuba KO 5 Oct 24 Mel Collins Tampa, Fl W 10 Nov 16 Yama Bahama Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Nov 28 Johnny Gonsalves Oakland, Ca W 10 Dec 17 Emile Griffith New York, NY L 10 1961 Feb 21 Lyle Mackin Oakland, Ca KO 5 Mar 22 Johnny Gonsalves Oakland, Ca W 10 Apr 15 Alvaro Gutierrez Mexico City, Mexico KO 5 May 13 Alfredo Cota Guadalajara, Mexico KO 4 Aug 3 Curtis Cokes Dallas, Tx L 10 Sep 13 Guy Sumlin Miami Beach, Fl KO 6 Oct 24 Jose Gonzalez Miami Beach, Fl KO 7 Dec 2 Curtis Cokes Miami Beach, Fl W 10 1962 Jan 27 Federico Thompson New York, NY W 10 Mar 17 Ricardo Falech Miami Beach, Fl KO 3 May 4 Yama Bahama New York, NY KO 3 Jun 30 Gene Armstrong New York, NY KO 8 Aug 29 Ernest Burford Miami Beach, Fl KO 7 Nov 6 Santiago Gutierrez San Antonio, Tx KO 3 Dec 12 Mel Collins Miami Beach, Fl W 10 1963 Jan 19 Joey Giambra Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Mar 21 Emile Griffith Los Angeles, Ca W 15 -Welterweight Championship of the World Jun 8 Emile Griffith New York, NY L 15 -Welterweight Championship of the World Aug 17 Denny Moyer Miami Beach, Fl KO 9 Oct 18 Wilbert McClure New York, NY W 10 Dec 27 Wilbert McClure Miami Beach, Fl W 10 1964 Mar 29 Holly Mims New York, NY W 10 Apr 3 Jesse Smith Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Jun 12 Emile Griffith Las Vegas, Nv L 15 -Welterweight Championship of the World Nov 14 Langston C. Morgan Mexico City, Mexico KO 2 1965 Feb 12 Rubin "Hurricane" Carter New York, NY W 10 Mar 26 Johnny Smith Los Angeles, Ca KO 10 Apr 21 Garland Randall Tampa, Fl W 10 Jul 16 Memo Ayon Los Angeles, Ca KO 3 Jul 26 Jose Asumpcao Las Vegas, Nv W 10 Aug 3 Charley Austin Phoenix, Az W 10 Aug 26 Rubin "Hurricane" Carter Los Angeles, Ca W 10 Oct 4 Johnny Morris Philadelphia, Pa KO 2 Nov 16 Cecil Mott Miami Beach, Fl KO 4 Dec 2 Eddie Pace Las Vegas, Nv W 10 Dec 20 Joe Murphy Albuquerque, NM KO 4 1966 Jan 18 Fred McWilliams Phoenix, Az KO 9 Jan 25 Joey Limas Albuquerque, NM KO 4 Mar 7 Georgie Benton Philadelphia, Pa KO 9 Apr 11 Percy Manning Philadelphia, Pa L 10 May 7 Tommy Caldwell San Juan, PR KO 2 Jul 6 Curtis Cokes New Orleans, La LK 15 Sep 9 Juarez DeLima Rosario, Argentina KO 3 Sep 24 Ruben Orrico Rosario, Argentina KO 4 1967 Jan 21 Manuel Alvarez Mar del Plata, Argentina KO 8 Feb 7 Esteban Osuna Rosario, Argentina W 10 Mar 20 Bennie Briscoe Philadelphia, Pa W 10 Jun 4 Rocky Rivero San Juan, PR W 10 Jun 17 Jimmy Lester Oakland, Ca W 10 Sep 7 Ferd Hernandez Oakland, Ca W 10 Sep 29 Phil Robinson Caracas, Venezuela KO 3 Oct 21 Marvin "Candy" McFarland Caracas, Venezuela W 10 -Some sources report 11/16/67 in "Maracaibo, Venezuela" Nov 6 Percy Manning Caracas, Venezuela KO 1 Dec 15 Bennie Briscoe New York, NY W 10 1968 Feb 6 Charley Austin Miami Beach, Fl KO 6 Mar 26 Carl Moore Miami Beach, Fl W 10 May 7 Teddy Wright Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Jun 3 Vicente Rondon San Juan, PR L 10 Jul 18 Vicente Rondon San Juan, PR W 10 Sep 4 Rudy Rodriguez Key West, Fl KO 4 Nov 15 Joe Shaw New York, NY W 10 1969 Jan 21 Doug Huntley Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Feb 20 Bobby Williams Tampa, Fl KO 7 Mar 31 Rafael Gutierrez San Diego, Ca KO 6 Jul 8 Eddie Owens Miami Beach, Fl KO 7 Aug 12 David Beckles Miami Beach, Fl KO 2 Sep 23 Tom Bethea Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Nov 22 Nino Benvenuti Rome, Italy LK 11 -Middleweight Championship of the World 1970 Feb 10 Porter Rolle Miami Beach, Fl KO 4 Mar 17 Joe Cokes Miami Beach, Fl KO 4 Apr 14 Willie Warren Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Jun 16 Porter Rolle Miami Beach, Fl KO 5 Jul 31 Jose Gonzalez San Juan, PR L 10 Aug 20 Fraser Scott Seattle, Wa W 10 Sep 24 Jose Gonzalez Miami Beach, Fl W 12 Dec 1 J.C. Ponder Miami Beach, Fl KO 5 1971 Jan 26 Bob Cassidy Miami Beach, Fl W 10 Apr 7 Tony Mundine Melbourne, Vic, Australia KO 1 May 25 Bunny Sterling London, England L 10 Aug 3 Rafael Gutierrez San Francisco, Ca LK 6 Nov 1 Mike Padgett Greenwood, Ca KO 2 Nov 30 Dave Hilton Miami Beach, Fl W 10 1972 Mar 16 Mike Lancaster Seattle, Wa L 10 Apr 12 Donato Paduano Montreal, Que, Canada L 10 *** Assistance Was Provided By Tony Triem ***
Record courtesy of Tracy Callis, Historian, International Boxing Research Organization
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