MINNEAPOLIS – Elvis Rodriguez has rediscovered his swagger.
The hard-hitting Dominican southpaw was dominant in a seventh-round knockout of Argentina’s Juan Jose Velasco. Rodriguez scored three knockdowns in the fateful round, the last of which prompted a stoppage at 2:49 of round seven in their Showtime-televised opener Saturday evening at The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Velasco came out well intended, shooting his jab and initiating the action as Rodriguez treated the opening round as a feeling out session. The Dominican southpaw was selective with his punch output but managed to land a jaw-rattling right hook just before the bell.
Rodriguez grew more comfortable with his jab in round two, though Velasco continued to come forward. Both fighters came straight down the middle, Velasco firing right hands and Rodriguez punching in combination.
Rodriguez changed his attack in round three, opening with a right hook around Velasco’s high guard. Velasco took the shot well, offering jabs and right hands in return though most were picked off by Rodriguez’s gloves. A straight left hand by Rodriguez drove Velasco back, spending the rest of the round keeping the Argentinean at the end of his jab.
Velasco paid the price for walking straight into Rodriguez’s punching range, having to steady himself after getting rocked by a right hook early in round five. Rodriguez drew in Velasco after boxing in reverse, spending most of the rest of the round taking the lead in nearly every sequence.
Rodriguez continued to control the action at the start of the second half, working the body of Velasco and slowly breaking down the streaking fringe contender. Velasco was game but also taking several jabs and straight left hands without giving back much in return.
Velasco complained of an inability to see out of his left eye prior to the start of round seven. Rodriguez seemed to have detected as much, as the bulk of the damage came courtesy of right hooks. Velasco was decked early in round seven, managing to beat the count but worse for the wear as Rodriguez was brimming with confidence.
Rodriguez had knockout on his mind, refusing to let Velasco off the hook—literally. Velasco was trapped in a neutral corner as he was floored with a sweeping right hook and a follow-up left hand. Velasco once again made it to his feet, attempting one last surge though unable to force Rodriguez to back off. Rodriguez sent Velasco through the ropes with a final right hook—preceded by a swarm of power punches—this time with referee Gary Ritter cutting short his count in halting the contest.
The win is the second straight for Rodriguez following an upset decision defeat to Kenneth Sims Jr. last May in Las Vegas. The fight was Rodriguez’s last with Top Rank, signing with Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and making his platform debut in a seventh-round knockout of unbeaten Juan Pablo Romero—a 2016 Mexican Olympian—last November on the Canelo Alvarez-Caleb Plant Showtime Pay-Per-View undercard in Las Vegas.
Saturday’s victory marks the second straight knockout win for Rodriguez, who improves to 13-1-1 (12KOs). The Dominican southpaw saw his first eleven fights end inside the distance, having gone to the scorecards in back-to-back fights before resuming his knockout ways.
Velasco falls to 23-3 (14KOs), snapping a modest three-fight win streak. His previous two defeats came in back-to-back stoppages at the hands of Regis Prograis and Mario Barrios, both of whom went on to win a version of the junior welterweight title.
Rodriguez-Velasco served as the opening bout of a Showtime tripleheader. Headlining the show, Australian contender Tim Tszyu (20-0, 15KOs) makes his U.S. debut in a scheduled 12-round junior middleweight clash with 2012 U.S. Olympian and former title challenger Terrell Gausha (22-2-1, 11KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox