Emmanuel Rodriguez has chosen to go out on his terms.
The two-time and reigning IBF bantamweight titlist surprisingly announced his retirement on Tuesday. Puerto Rico’s Rodriguez caught many in the industry off guard, including most of his own team who seemed genuinely shocked when he took to social media to reveal the hard decision to walk away from the sport.
“Today is a heavy day for me because today I have made the decision to hang up the gloves,” Rodriguez said in a statement posted on his Facebook page. “I know that for many it is a wrong decision because as everyone knows I am enjoying the best part of my boxing career.
“it is something that it has [also] cost me a lot and thanks to boxing I have achieved many things for which I am grateful today.”
Rodriguez (22-2, 13KOs; 1NC)—who was promoted by Fresh Productions and fought under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner— bows out of the game just two months after his second title haul. It came in a lopsided win over Miami’s Melvin Lopez on August 12 to reclaim the IBF bantamweight title. The sparsely attended Showtime event from MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland saw Rodriguez win every round and floor Lopez in the 12th and final round to become a two-time major titlist.
The 31-year-old boxer-puncher from Manati, Puerto Rico held the same belt for a little more than a year after a May 2018 dominant twelve-round victory over England’s Paul Butler on the road in London. Just one title defense followed, a split-decision win over Australia’s Jason Moloney who was undefeated at the time of their October 2018 World Boxing Super Series quarterfinal bout.
Rodriguez suffered his first career defeat one fight later, a May 2019 second-round knockout to Naoya Inoue who would go on to fully unify the division by the end of 2022. All four belts were made available after Inoue moved up to junior featherweight, with Rodriguez first in line with the IBF but last in line to claim a title.
The eleven-year pro saw his career slowed to a halt particularly after the pandemic.
He fought just five times in the past four years, one of which was a rust-shaking win last March in Cancun after a 2021 campaign that saw just 16 seconds worth of ring time. That came in a truncated interim title fight versus Gary Antonio Russell which ended on a head clash. Fittingly, their October 2022 rematch suffered the same fate, though went long enough for Rodriguez to pile up rounds and claim a lopsided decision in their IBF title eliminator.
His lone other defeat came in a highly questionable twelve-round, split decision in favor of the Philippines’ Reymart Gaballo on a December 2020 Showtime card from Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. Rodriguez was due to face former four-division champion Nonito Donaire for the full WBC bantamweight title, but was downgraded to an interim bout when Donaire tested positive for Covid and was replaced by Gaballo.
Interestingly, Gaballo could be in line to fight for the IBF title once the sanctioning body declares the title vacant. The 27-year-old Filipino is ranked number-three, with only Japan’s Ryosuke Nishida (8-0, 1KOs) ranked higher.
That is of little concern to Rodriguez, who is content with the legacy he left behind as a pro.
“[M]any years between ups and downs but in the end I made it [through] 21 years [in boxing],” noted Rodriguez. “It’s not easy to leave this way but I don't want to wait to lose my love to this so I can say it's enough.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox