Emmanuel Rodriguez regained the IBF bantamweight title Saturday night that he lost to a “Monster” four years ago.
Rodriguez knocked Melvin Lopez to the canvas three times in the final 45 seconds of their 12-round, 118-pound championship match and easily won it by unanimous decision at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Judges Waleska Roldan (120-105), Robin Taylor (120-105) and Paul Wallace (120-105) all scored their “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event a shutout for the 31-year-old Rodriguez.
Puerto Rico’s Rodriguez (22-2, 13 KOs, 1 NC) won back the IBF 118-pound championship he lost to Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue in May 2019. Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) knocked out Rodriguez in the second round of their title fight at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland.
The hard-hitting Inoue later became boxing’s undisputed bantamweight champion. He gave up the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO bantamweight titles to box in the 122-pound division for his most recent fight – an eighth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten WBC/WBO champ Stephen Fulton (21-1, 8 KOs) on July 25 in Tokyo.
Rodriguez entered the ring as the IBF’s second-ranked bantamweight contender, one spot atop Lopez. The number one position in the IBF’s bantamweight ratings is unoccupied.
Nicaragua’s Lopez (29-2, 19 KOs) took an eight-fight winning streak into the ring, but he also took a steep step up in competition against one of the best bantamweights in boxing.
Rodriguez ran out of time, but he almost knocked out Lopez in the final round.
Lopez, who had not boxed beyond the 10th round before Saturday night, fought cautiously in the 12th round, despite that he had to have known he was way down on the scorecards. Rodriguez rocked him with a right hand and then a left hook just before the midway mark of the 12th round.
Rodriguez later drilled Lopez with a left hook to the body that sent Lopez to the seat of his trunks with 45 seconds to go in their fight. Lopez answered referee David Braslow’s count at nine, but Rodriguez dropped him again with 26 seconds remaining in their fight.
Lopez again got up by the time Braslow’s count reached nine. Rodriguez swarmed him again and landed various head shots that made Lopez go down for the third time with only five seconds on the clock.
A resilient Lopez got up yet again and made it to the final bell.
Rodriguez landed two left hooks in the early portion of the 11th round, when Lopez kept fighting off his back foot.
Rodriguez pressed the action again throughout the 10th round and continued to land the harder punches. Rodriguez pushed Lopez to the canvas with 1:35 to go in the 10th round.
A stiff jab by Rodriguez snapped back Lopez’s head a little more than 45 seconds into the ninth round.
Rodriguez’s left-right-left-right combination was the highlight of the eighth round, which Rodriguez controlled. Lopez was warned for a low blow just before the eighth round ended.
Rodriguez rocked Lopez with a straight right that landed with just under 40 seconds on the clock in the seventh round. Rodriguez trapped Lopez in a corner and landed a right hand 55 seconds into the seventh round.
Rodriguez pawed at the swelling surrounding his right eye during the sixth round. He landed several right hands during that three-minute period, but Lopez made the sixth round competitive.
An accidental clash of heads caused a brief break in the action toward the end of the fifth round.
Rodriguez snapped back Lopez’s head with a right hand that landed with just under 40 seconds to go in the fourth round. Rodriguez’s right connected just after the midway mark of the fourth round.
Lopez landed an overhand left with just over 40 seconds on the clock in the third round.
Lopez caught Rodriguez with a right hook that connected with just under 30 seconds on the clock in the second round. Another right-left combination by Rodriguez staggered Lopez with 1:41 to go in the second round.
A right-left combination by Rodriguez knocked Lopez off balance 1:20 into the first round. Lopez landed a right hook up top and followed with a hard left to Rodriguez’s body about 30 seconds into the opening round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.