Emmanuel “Manny” Rodríguez will embrace the new year with his luggage in his hands to leave for Mexico with a view to establish his training camp, on the way to his first defense of the bantamweight title (118 pounds) of the International Boxing Federation (IBF).

Rodríguez's agenda is to risk the belt against Japanese contender Ryosuke Nishida (8-0, 1 KO), who is ranked at number one by the IBF. The date and venue of the fight have not been defined.

“It will be a long camp,” Rodríguez (22-2, 13 KO) told Carlos Gonzalez. “It could be late March or early April. From there it cannot go any further in order to meet the time limit [to make good on the mandatory]. It cannot go beyond April 16."

Rodríguez indicated that Japan would be an alternative as a venue for his defense, as long as the appropriate funds are obtained.

“There is no location, but the only way to go to Japan is if they offer $250,000 or $300,000. If it goes to a purse bid, it opens the door for Fresh Promotions to enter and bring that fight to Puerto Rico," Rodriguez said.

The 31-year-old boxer captured the IBF crown last August, when he beat Melvin López by a wide unanimous decision despite inflammation in his right eye that partially affected his vision.

Weeks later, he posted on social media that he had no interest in continuing his career and planned to retire. However, shortly after, he recanted those statements.

“The issue of retirement was because at the end of the day the fight against López did not benefit me financially. They had offered me an amount of money that was not what they later wanted to give me and I am not in a position to accept what they wanted to give me. I was upset,” Rodriguez stated.

“It wasn't that I lost focus or anything like that. I'm clearly at my peak. So far, so good. It was discussed, I hope they fulfill me. I can’t pass up the opportunity to achieve other things because of something stupid."

Rodriguez shared that the deal was that he would receive $200,000 for facing Filipino Vincent Astrolabio, only to end up earning $75,000 for the fight against Lopez.

“I was a little upset because the change of opponent was not my fault. The difference in money was too much. Anyone would get discouraged, but I gave in. At least I closed 2023 well as world champion. By 2024 I hope to fight at least three times. I'm not fighting very often and I don't like it. 2024 will be better by winning,” concluded Rodríguez.