Obituary: Luis Rodriguez

Luis Rodriguez was one of a celebrated quintet of established Cuban professional boxers who emigrated in the wake of Fidel Castro's rise to power and who went on to become world champions. The others were Uliminio "Sugar" Ramos, Benny Parat, Jose Legra and Jose Napoles.

Ramos and Napoles eventually settled in Mexico, Legra in Spain, and both the ill-fated Parat, who died following a world title contest in 1962, and Rodriguez made their homes in the United States.

Born in Camaguey, in the centre of the island, Rodriguez was the Cuban welterweight champion by the time he was 21, but when the Batista Government fell to Castro in January 1959, professional sport rapidly fell out of favour. Within four months the machinery of the socialist economy was in place, and although there continued to be professional boxing promotions for some time, the ideological strain of Castro's revolution was effectively sealed by his landmark statement: "I am a Marxist-Leninist and shall be until I die".

A cheerful, flat-nosed extrovert, Rodriguez settled quickly in America, after arriving in Miami in mid-1959. He soon earned a world rating, and went on to win the world welterweight title in the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in March 1963 with a 15-round points decision over the defending champion, the Virgin Islander Emile Griffith.

Although he was trained by Angelo Dundee, whose name was made by his long association with Muhammad Ali, Rodriguez did not last long as champion himself. Griffith had been smart enough to insist on a return clause in the contract and only three months later at the rematch in Madison Square Garden, New York, a split decision by the judges went in favour of Griffith. Rodriguez was furious. "I thought I won easily," he complained. In a third and "deciding" world title fight in Las Vegas in June 1964, Griffith won but again it was desperately close, one judge scoring for Rodriguez and two for the champion.

In 1964 Rodriguez twice beat Rubin Carter, who was eventually jailed for a murder he did not commit and became the subject of Bob Dylan's song "Hurricane".

At the end of 1966 Rodriguez moved up to middleweight and twice beat the alarmingly tough Philadelphian Bennie Briscoe, but when he eventually challenged the richly talented reigning champion Nino Benvenuti for the world 11st 6lb championship in Rome in November 1969, his early points lead was wiped out when he was knocked out by a single left hook in the 11th round.

Luis Rodriguez carried on boxing until he became just a stepping stone for rising hopefuls. In May 1971 he boxed in London and lost a 10-round decision to the British champion Bunny Sterling and finally retired after losing on points to Donato Paduano of Canada in Montreal in April 1972. He had 121 professional fights over 16 years, won 107 and lost 13, with one No Contest. In retirement he continued to live in Miami.

Bob Mee

Luis Manuel Rodriguez, boxer: born Camaguey, Cuba 17 June 1937; married; died Miami, Florida 11 July 1996.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?