Saturday night in Oxon Hill, MD, Emmanuel Rodriguez got back the IBF bantamweight crown with impressive 12 round decision over Melvin Lopez that was a near stoppage in the final seconds.
The main event of the Showtime Boxing/PBC triple header saw the Puerto Rican Rodriguez dropped the Nicaraguan born Lopez not just once, but three times in the final 40 seconds of the bout, but the final bell saved him. The scores reflected the Rodriguez blowout 12th round at 120-105 on all three cards,
.@ERodriguezManny on 🔝
— SHOWTIME Boxing (@ShowtimeBoxing) August 13, 2023
From the Showtime recap:
“Emmanuel Rodriguez became a two-time IBF bantamweight champion Saturday night, securing a unanimous decision over Melvin Lopez in headlining action live on SHOWTIME from The Theater at MGM National Harbor in Maryland in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
Rodriguez (22-2, 13 KOs) sustained swelling over his right eye in the second round of the 12-round battle, and even though the eye ballooned as the fight wore on, he outclassed his opponent to the tune of 120-105 scores in his favor from all three judges.
“This is the result of six months of hard work in Mexico,” said Rodriguez, who is from Puerto Rico. “This wouldn’t have been possible without my entire team. I was able to become a champion once again five years later thanks to them. Let’s go Latin America, let’s go Puerto Rico, and let’s go Mexico!
“I remained calm despite the headbutt that caused my eye to swell up in the second round It kept getting more swollen, but my team did an outstanding job keeping it at bay. I never had a problem with my eyesight throughout the fight.”
Rodriguez put an exclamation point on the victory by knocking down Lopez (29-2, 19 KOs) three times in the final round, attacking him with a flurry of punches that put Lopez on the ropes.
“We worked on being powerful and purposeful with our power punches, besides showing off our skills,” Rodriguez said.
“I want Santiago next. He says that he doesn’t think anybody can beat him at 118 pounds, but I’m here to prove him wrong.”
In the co-main event, Capitol Heights, Maryland native Gary Antuanne Russell (17-0, 17 KOs) made quick work of previously undefeated Kent Cruz (16-1-3, 10 KOs), securing his eighth career first-round knockout by sending Cruz to the canvas two minutes and 39 seconds into the super lightweight bout. Russell, a 2016 U.S. Olympian, first knocked down Cruz with a left uppercut to the chin, then ended the fight with a dizzying body blow.
“This is obviously good,” Russell said. “I saw the opening and I took it, and I was trying to remain disciplined defensively at the same time. More than anything, I was trying to make sure I could end it in the first round.”
Kicking off the telecast, Gabriel Maestre (6-0-1, 5 KOs) came out blazing and knocked down previously undefeated Capitol Heights, Maryland native Travon Marshall (8-1, 7 KOs) twice en route to securing a second-round TKO. A two-time Olympian, “El Capitan” used a vicious combination to send Marshall through the ropes at the 2:06 mark of the second round in the one-sided welterweight bout.
“I did not expect this knockout,” Maestre said. “I want to thank my team for helping me prepare for this fight. This victory is for Venezuela. We practiced that right hand that hit Travon. I hope that he recovers quickly.
“I was honestly surprised I knocked Marshall out so quickly. He’s a tough, young fighter.”
Back to Emmanuel Rodriguez, who previously won the IBF strap with a 12 round victory over Paul Butler in 2018 before being kayoed two fights later by Naoya Inoue, he’s possibly in line for a unification bout upcoming with Mexican Alex Santiago. Santiago just upset future hall of famer Nonito Donaire by decision late last month in Las Vegas for the WBC 118 lb. crown on the undercard of Terence Crawford’s PPV KO of Errol Spence.