Rodriguez lands first victory

By Andrea Camarena

Farmersville boxer Santiago Rodriguez had some big shoes to fill in his second professional fight last Thursday at the Palace Indian Gaming Center in Lemoore. His own.

Rodriguez's trainer Doug Henderson bought shoes for the occasion that turned out to be one size too big. Instead of buying a new pair of shoes, the trainer decided to give his boxer some added incentive to do well by giving him a pair of his father's socks. Tom Henderson was a professional boxer in the 1940s who passed away at the age of 76 in 1990. Tom had raised his son to be student of the sweet science who in turn has taken a 24-year-old kid from Farmersville and turned him into a technical fighting machine. The socks were a perfect fit, in more ways than one, as Rodriguez defeated San Jose rookie Jorge Landin by knockout in the fourth round of his middleweight bout.

"Grandpa was boxing tonight," Rodriguez said.

"He would have been 92 this year and he would have loved to see you fight," Henderson told Rodriguez in an interview after the fight. "He probably would have asked to spar with you."

Rodriguez knocked out rookie opponent Jorge Landin of San Jose in the fourth round of Fiesta De Boxeo's final bout on Thursday night. The Palace hosted the Fox Sports Network televised event that featured eight fights on Sept. 16. Rodriguez's fight served as the night's closer but bosted as much crowd appeal as the headlining bout for the NABF Championship.

Rodriguez and Landing hit the ring at 11 p.m. and went one minute and 14 seconds into the final round of the four-round middleweight bout.

Rodriguez looked like the obvious leader from the starting bell. When Landin started to tire in round one, Rodriguez began working his opponent's head with left hooks forcing him to draw his hands higher in defense. Rodriguez followed up the head shots with body shots to each side.

Continuing to dominate through the second round, Rodriguez centered his focus on Landin's body. Henderson said Rodriguez hit Landin on his left side and he opened his mouth. For Henderson, this was a sign of weakness as the wind had been knocked out of Landin. Rodriguez followed it up with a shot to the right and Landin moved with it. Landin's body weakened and according to Henderson, the rookie was hurting for air.

With his opponent severely weakened from the first half of the bout, Rodriguez proved himself the dominant opponent in round three as Landin hit the floor for the first time of the night. Rodriguez landed an uppercut and watched as Landin's knees buckled and he fell to the canvas.

"I have seen it in movies but I have never seen someone wobble like that," Rodriguez said.

This wouldn't be Landin's only fall of the contest. Shortly after the bell rang to start the fourth round, Rodriguez was up against the ropes when he delivered a powerful left hook that knocked Landin over the ropes and out of the ring.

"I think he was lunging to grab Rodriguez and buy some time. He was already dazed and tired and his momentum carried him out of the ring," Henderson said.

It took the boxer a full minute to get back in the ring. Ten seconds later, Rodriguez landed a brutal combination of left hook, right cross and repeated it all before Landin knew what hit him. He went down on a knee slightly swaying and the referee stopped the fight at 1:14 in the fourth round.

"The guy came to fight," Henderson said. "There was no quit in him. You had to take it out of him."

Rodriguez trained for this match with Henderson for two months in Exeter. Rodriguez made his professional debut in June and ended the fight at a draw.

After years of amateur boxing, Rodriguez almost gave up the sport.

"I never thought about fighting professionally and was even thinking of quitting when one night I went out to the Palace to watch fights. I kept seeing guys that I used to spar with and that I used to beat. My wife said I was better than any of them, that they don't have what I have and that I should go do it."

Coming full circle, Rodriguez closed the night of fights at Fiesta De Boxeo at the palace.

Fiesta De Boxeo's 12-round headlining fight renamed the NABF Featherweight Champion as Cesar Fegueroa of Mexico City. Figueroa boasted a 26-4-2 record over defending champ Jorge Martinez' 11-1-1. Martinez, also known as the "Pistol" overwhelmingly held the crowd's favor as chants in his name went up throughout the crowd for ten rounds of fighting. Boo's replaced the cheering as the Pistol hit the mat in the 1:50 mark of the 10th round. The referee called the fight at a knock out awarding the belt to 126 pound Figueroa.

The second title fight of the night placed NABF Jr. Middleweight defending champion "Smooth" Rodney Jones in the ring with Michael Lerma of Waco, Texas. Lerma, with 20 knockouts under his belt dubbed himself the "Body Snatcher" and made it through all 12 rounds fighting. All three judges unanimously awarded Jones the victor with scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 120-108 in favor of the defending champ.

The card at the Palace's biggest boxing event to date, featured several other local boxers. Orosi's Juan "El Tigre" Herrera faced off against Freddy "El Konejo" Castro out of Los Angeles in the sixth bout of the night. The four-round light-weight fight ended at a draw when judges scored the match at 39-37, Castro; 39-37, Herrera and 38, all. The fight put El Tigre's career record at 6-2-1 and Castro's at 5-9-4.

One of the most anticipated competitors of the night came out of Tulare. Undefeated 22 year old Hector Alatorre's opponent Edgar Sabal, out of Cancun, Mexico, forfeited the four round light weight bout leaving the crowd nothing short of dissapointed.

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