Emmanuel Rodriguez can’t seem to decide whether he is done with the sport or ready to resume his second bantamweight title reign.
His latest callout suggests the latter, though all of it is perfectly in line with your typical boxing retirement.
Less than a week after he was set to hang up the gloves, Puerto Rico’s Rodriguez is now determined to further unify the bantamweight division. The reigning IBF titlist has called for showdowns versus WBO titlist Jason Moloney in what would be a rematch from five years ago, and a fresh meeting with WBC titleholder Alexandro Santiago.
“I was left wanting to knock out Jason Moloney and Alexandro Santiago,” Rodriguez stated Monday. “Apparently, they don’t want to know about me and will look for easy fights.
All four bantamweight titles changed hands this year, in the months after Naoya Inoue abdicated his undisputed throne to pursue a fourth divisional championship which he since claimed at junior featherweight. By the time Rodriguez (22-2, 13KOs; 1NC) challenged for his old IBF title, the other three vacancies were already fulfilled.
Takuma Inoue, Naoya’s younger brother, was the first out the gate and won the WBA title on April 8. Australia’s Jason Moloney came up big in his third career title fight when he outpointed the Philippines’ Vincent Astrolabio on May 13 in Stockton, California. The only defeats endured by Moloney were an October 2020 seventh-round knockout to Naoya Inoue, who defended his WBA and IBF belts at the time before he fully unified the division last December.
Santiago claimed the WBC title in a twelve-round, unanimous decision over future Hall of Famer and former four-division champ Nonito Donaire on July 29 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Rodriguez filled the last remaining void in a lopsided twelve-round win over Nicaragua’s Melvin Lopez on August 12 in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
The win came after a ten-month ring absence following a one-sided, technical decision victory over unbeaten Gary Antonio Russell.
Rodriguez’s only defeats came to Naoya Inoue in a May 2019 second-round knockout to end his first IBF reign; and a highly questionable December 2020 decision defeat to the Philippines’ Reymart Gaballo. Just four fights have followed—a No-Contest in an August 2021 title eliminator that ended in just 14-seconds; and three straight wins, including his second title win.
The goal now—assuming the retirement plans didn’t stick—is to put himself on path to further unify the division.
“[Moloney and Santiago] both have something that I want, titles to unify,” insisted Rodriguez. “Say when and we will give the public what they want. Champions vs champions.”
Rodriguez outpointed Moloney in their October 2018 battle of unbeaten bantamweights in his first IBF title tour.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox