Highly-skilled Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez will make the first defense of his IBF bantamweight title against unbeaten Australian Jason Moloney in the World Boxing Super Series quarter-final in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday.
Rodriguez, who is rated No. 4 by The Ring at 118 pounds, is looking forward to testing himself against one of the very best fighters in his division.
“I always wanted to face the best,” Rodriguez told The Ring. “So this is what I was waiting for before being a world champion. The best are in this tournament. More fans will get to know me and the other participants which is great.”
Rodriguez (18-0, 12 knockouts) had long been the IBF No. 1 contender but was crestfallen when Lee Haskins passed up the fight to face Ryan Burnett last June. Burnett won the title and successfully unified against WBA titleholder Zhanat Zhakiyanov which, again, kept Rodriguez on the outside.
The IBF finally made Rodriguez mandatory challenger only for Burnett to vacate. However, the stage was set for the dangerous Puerto Rican to face off against Paul Butler for the vacant title, and he didn’t disappoint, dropping the Englishman en route to a landslide 12-round unanimous decision on May 5.
“I wasn’t expecting that much love from the English fans,” said the 26-year-old boxer-puncher. “I was really happy and surprised, lots of autographs and photos.
“About the fight, thank God it was a good, wide unanimous decision. I didn’t have to show all of my skills because I was winning every round with the basics. Why change something that is working good?
Following a 10-week camp under the watchful eye of Victor ‘Cano’ Ortiz and Freddy Trinidad at the Caimito Boxing gym in San Juan, Rodriguez has got himself into fantastic shape. He claims to have been just four pounds over the division limit in early October.
Rodriguez is now completely focused on Moloney, knowing that victory will set up a semi-final clash with the pound-for-pound entrant Naoya Inoue, who sensationally blitzed Juan Carlos Payano in a single round earlier this month.
“(Moloney) is a mandatory fight, the only mandatory fight in the tournament,” Rodriguez explained. “Moloney and his brother are great fighters and very well-known in Australia. I need to be 110 percent to beat him, and I’m working really hard.
“He’s fast, intelligent and knows how to use the ring. Every fight is different, every opponent is different, so I just work on lots of possibilities. I want no surprises, and of course the victory will be for my people of Puerto Rico.”
Juan Ivan Orengo of Fresh Productions Boxing is very confident his fighter will be victorious.
“This fight will be a great fight for the fans, but we feel that Rodriguez is way superior and should not have major problems,” said the promoter. “He will put everybody on notice. I think that Rodriguez winning the WBSS will place him in the pound-for-pound top 10 list – superstar level.”