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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
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

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world