LAS VEGAS – Kenneth Sims Jr. produced the type of win Saturday night that was expected of the accomplished amateur when he turned pro six years ago.
Chicago’s Sims upset previously unbeaten junior welterweight prospect Elvis Rodriguez in an eight-rounder ESPN televised as part of the Jose Ramirez-Josh Taylor undercard from The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Rodriguez was listed as at least a 25-1 favorite by most Internet sports books, but an aggressive Sims out-boxed and out-punched a supposedly heavier-hitting opponent to win a majority decision.
Judges Eric Cheek (78-74) and Max De Luca (78-74) scored six of the eight rounds apiece for Sims (16-2-1, 5 KOs). Judge Chris Migliore scored the bout a draw (76-76)
The 25-year-old Rodriguez (11-1-1, 10 KOs), a southpaw who’s trained by Freddie Roach, went the distance in a second straight eight-rounder. This time, though, he encountered a skillful, smart opponent who rose to the occasion in a fight he absolutely needed to win to rejuvenate his career.
Before Saturday night, the 27-year-old Sims’ career stalled following an eight-round majority decision loss to Rolando Chinea (15-2-1, 6 KOs) in July 2017 and an eight-round unanimous decision defeat to Philadelphia’s Samuel Teah (17-4-1, 7 KOs) in November 2018.
He was a much different fighter Saturday night, when he largely out-classed Rodriguez.
Rodriguez connected with a straight left, but Sims came back with a right with just under a minute to go in the eighth round. Rodriguez clearly needed a knockout in that final round, but Sims remained aggressive and landed the flusher punches in those final three minutes.
Rodriguez landed a hard right to Sims’ body about 25 seconds into the seventh round. Sims caught Rodriguez with a left hand while fighting from a southpaw stance just before the seventh round ended.
Rodriguez continued to reach with his left hand in the sixth round, but Sims mostly remained out of his punching range. Sims landed a left-right combination with about a minute to go in the sixth round.
A right hand by Sims knocked Rodriguez backward with just under 25 seconds remaining in the sixth round.
Sims drilled Rodriguez with a counter right to the body after Rodriguez missed a left hand with about 1:20 to go in the fifth round. Sims later landed a stiff jab from a southpaw stance in the fifth.
Sims switched a southpaw stance early in the fourth round, when he landed a right hook before returning to his conventional stance.
Sims’ counter right caught Rodriguez about a minute into the third round. Rodriguez drilled Sims with a right hook in the final minute of the third round, yet he quickly fired back with a straight right of his own.
Rodriguez’s right hook caught Sims 15 seconds into the second round. Sims connected with a short right inside during the middle minute of the second round.
Sims countered Rodriguez with another right hand with about 30 seconds to go in the second round.
Rodriguez and Sims spent much of the first round trading jabs, most of which missed. Rodriguez’s right hook eventually clipped Sims with 55 seconds to go in the opening round and amounted to the most noteworthy punch of those three minutes.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.