Riverside's Rodriguez

Two Week Return to the Ring

Photo by Al Applerose

Story By David A. Avila

After eight consecutive knockout victories including a two-round thrashing less than two weeks ago, Saul “Neno” Rodriguez faces a most dangerous opponent in Nicaragua’s Daniel Diaz this Saturday.

Blessed with speed, power and ever enhancing boxing skills, Riverside’s Rodriguez (16-0-1, 13 Kos) has been placed on the fast-track when he meets a former world title contender in Diaz (22-6-1, 15 Kos) on Saturday in Hidalgo, Texas. UniMas will televise the junior lightweight clash.

“I’ll have to watch out for him, he’s going to be a durable fighter,” said Rodriguez, 21, while training in Indian Hills in Jurupa Valley. “I’ll have to fight smart.”

So far Rodriguez has blazed through 17 fighters like a hot knife through butter. The lone fight that resulted in a draw happened 26 months ago when a beaten fighter claimed he could not see due to an accidental heat butt. He had already been floored twice and was on his way to a knockout defeat. The referee stopped the one-sided fight and ruled it a draw.

In this coming bout Rodriguez’s opponent Diaz has only been stopped only once in 29 fights and that came against Japan’s WBA bantamweight world titlist Koki Kameda four years ago in the 11th round.

“He’s tall and rangy and puts a lot of pressure,” said Rodriguez, who has watched tape of his Nicaraguan opponent. “I’ll have to be careful.”

Top Rank’s Brad Goodman, a matchmaker for the Las Vegas-based boxing promotion company, said Rodriguez has been a unique find in the boxing world.

“He’s one of those guys you rarely find, a one-punch knockout guy,” said Goodman. “You rarely see that in boxing now, especially someone that young.”

Rodriguez was recently mentioned by Solo Boxeo’s television show as one of the most exciting young fighters. Two of his knockout victories were among the top knockout wins in 2014. But rising to the top of the boxing rung has its consequences. The higher one rises the more difficult and harrowing the experience.

“He’s still probably a year away from contender status. Each and every fight he’s stepping up in opposition,” said Goodman who has helped guide numerous champions in the past including former featherweight and junior lightweight champion Mikey Garcia.

Goodman says those prizefighters considered true contenders are capable of knockouts too and have the same speed and durability. 

“I would say Saul is about a year away. We’re all excited about the way he knocks guys out. He just needs to sharpen up defensively. The better guys are tougher,” said Goodman. “But what he lacks defensively he makes up with that one punch power.”

It’s power versus power on Saturday when Rodriguez faces Diaz. 

“I know there are no easy fights,” said Rodriguez.