International Boxing Hall of Fame
Luis Manuel Rodríguez (b. March 14, 1937, Camaguey – d. July 8, 1996 in Miami, Florida) was a smooth boxing Cuban former world welterweight boxing champion. Known as "El Feo", Rodriguez began his career in pre-Castro Havana. In Cuba, Rodriguez twice defeated the ill-fated future welterweight champion Benny Kid Paret.
After, the Cuban Revolution, Rodríguez campaigned in the United States. Fighting out of Miami, Rodriguez decisioned top welterweights Virgil Akins, Isaac Logart, Rudell Stitch and Garnet "Sugar" Hart. He was unbeaten in 36 fights before losing a split decision to Emile Griffith in a 1960 non-title fight.
Rodríguez was unfortunate to have fought during the same time that Emile Griffith campaigned as a welterweight. The two fought four times and each fight was so close that the decision could have gone either way. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, the decision went to Griffith in three of their four bouts.
Rodríguez's sweetest victory came in 1963 when he defeated Griffith to win the welterweight title by scoring a unanimous decision (9-5, 8-5 and 8-6 on points). His reign, however, would be short lived. Six months later, Griffith regained the crown via split decision (8-7, 9-6 and 5-10 in rounds). In their fourth and final encounter, Griffith again scored a split decision (69-67, 70-68 and 70-71) and retained the crown.
Rodríguez was known as a master boxer, quick counterpuncher and an elusive target. Although he was considered a weak puncher, Rodriguez scored some surprising KOs when he set himself to punch. He was trained by Angelo Dundee and worked out of Miami's 5th Street Gym. There he met the young Cassius Clay, who was said to have incorporated many of Rodriguez's moves into his own repertoire.
In 1966 Griffith challenged Dick Tiger for the middleweight crown. Griffith outpointed Tiger and relinquished the welterweight title, thereby leaving the crown vacant. As one of the top welterweight contenders, Rodriguez competed in the elimination series of bouts to determine Griffith's successor to the throne. By this time Rodriuez was having trouble making the 147 lb weight limit, and he was TKO'ed by the eventual tournament winner, Curtis Cokes, in the 15th and final round, after running out of gas in the fight.
Rodríguez then moved up to the middleweight and beat many of the top fighters in that division. Among the outstanding 160-pounders he defeated were George Benton, Hurricane Carter (twice), and Bennie Briscoe (twice). He was rewarded with a title match against the then reigning middleweight titleholder, Nino Benvenuti in Rome in 1969. In an interesting tactical fight, Rodriguez opened a severe cut over the bridge of the champion's nose, and appeared to be coming on to win the fight. In the 11th round, however, Benvenuti caught Rodriguez with a picture book perfect left hook that knocked the Cuban fighter out. Rodriguez continued to fight after the Benvenuti match, but retired in 1972, after dropping two fights in a row.
World Welterweight Champion
21 Mar 1963–8 Jun 1963