Emmanuel "Manny" Rodríguez (born August 8, 1992) is a Puerto Rican professional boxer in the bantamweight division. While still a youth, he was incorporated into Puerto Rico's national team, competing in multiple open-class tournaments, including the Pan-American Championships, where he advanced to the finals. He finished second at the 2010 Youth World Amateur Boxing Championships, becoming the second consecutive Puerto Rican to win a medal in the flyweight division. Rodríguez was Puerto Rico's flag-bearer at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games and became the first flyweight champion in the event's history.
Rodríguez is originally from Urbanización Villa Real near Ojo de Agua, a middle class urban sector of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. His parents are Awilda Vázquez Soler and Luis Rodríguez. Throughout his childhood he practiced other sports before choosing boxing, including one of Puerto Rico's most widespread team sports, baseball. Rodríguez also served as forward of the localassociation football team, Invasores de Vega Baja. He studied at a local school named Escuela Lino Padrón Rivera until tenth grade. Due to his skill, he was subsequently enrolled at the Escuela Especializada en Deportes del Albergue Olímpico (ECEDAO), a specialized school run by the Comité Olímpico de Puerto Rico (COPUR) that provides education, residence, training and facilities to practice specific Olympic sports. On May 27, 2011, Rodríguez graduated as part of the program.
By 2006, Rodríguez was already competing at a national Youth level, participating in the Juegos Nacionales Escolares 2006, where he defeated Emmanuel Ramírez of Arecibo (2:1) in the 13–14 years (41 kg) division. As an amateur, his corner team is led by Arturo Ríos and Orlando Rodríguez Zayas, who trained Puerto Rico's previous Olympic medalist, Daniel Santos. Despite still being ranked in the Youth category, Rodríguez entered the light flyweight open-class at the 2009 Pan-American Championships when he was 17 years old. He won his debut over Mexican National Light Flyweight Champion, Francisco Meléndez, by unanimous points decision (10:3). In the semifinals, he fought Cuban National Light Flyweight Subchampion, Daniel Matellón, winning a close fight by one point (11:10). In the finals, Rodríguez lost another close fight to Paulo Carvalho of Brasil, 12:9, to secure the silver medal. He had previously entered the 2009 Torneo Nacional de Boxeo Aficionado Isaac Barrientos, Puerto Rico's senior national championships, advancing to the semifinals before losing to Waldemar Pagán (12:9). Between May 19 through 23, Rodríguez participated in the 2009 Torneo Internacional José "Cheo" Aponte, another open-class international tournament.In the semifinals he fought Bryan Aquino, who had defeated Pagán for Puerto Rico's National Light Flyweight Championship, winning by points (19:5). In the finals, he was matched against Waldemar Rodríguez, defeating him by Referee Stopping Contest (RSC) in two rounds to win the gold medal. On July 5, 2009, Rodríguez competed in the finals of the Copa Olímpica Juan Evangelista Venegas, an annual tournament held by the COPUR, defeating Ángel Acosta by RSC in two rounds.
After ascending to the flyweight division, Rodríguez participated in the Copa Internacional de Boxeo Aficionado San Juan Bautista, a boxing dual where foreign golden gloves winners were invited. He was expected to compete in the 2010 Torneo Nacional de Boxeo Aficionado Isaac Barrientos, but he was unable to attend, awarding a walkover victory to his scheduled opponent, Jesús Soler. His next international participation was at the 2010 American Continental Elite Men Championships. Rodríguez competed twice, defeating Mexican National Flyweight Champion, Elías Emigdio, (8:6) and fellow Puerto Rican José Núñez (4:0). At the 2010 Youth World Amateur Boxing Championships which were held in Baku, Azerbaijan, he debuted with a RSC victory over Lassana Camara of Mali, after receiving a bye in the first date of eliminatories. In the round of 16, Rodríguez defeated Pahlavon Hojiyev of Uzbekistan, 6:4. He advanced to the semifinals with an 8:1 win over Min Hong of South Korea. His next opponent was Hesham Yehia Mahmoud Abdelaal of Egypt, whom he defeated with scores of 10:3. At the finals, he lost a 6:14 decision to local Shaban Shahpalangov. By winning the silver medal, Rodríguez became the second consecutive Puerto Rican to win recognition in the flyweight division at the Youth World Championships and secured participation in the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics.
After the World Championships, Rodríguez entered the Copa Olímpica Juan Evangelista Venegas 2010. In his debut, he defeated Eddie Valenzuela of Guatemala by points (11:2). In the finals he was matched against his predecessor, 2008 AIBA Youth World Champion and senior Puerto Rico National Flyweight Champion, Jonathan González. Rodríguez used a defensive strategy, while González was the aggressor. Employing his counter punching, he was able to gain an advantage of 3 points, while González focused on punches to the body, that are generally not scored under AIBA regulation. Rodríguez closed the contest ahead 4:1, winning the first encounter between Puerto Rico's most recent Youth medalists. Despite this result, González was selected to be part of the national team assembled for the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games. This was due to recommendations made by the amateur boxing federation and High Performance Department, who wanted Rodríguez to have an uninterrupted preparation for the upcoming event. He was selected to be Puerto Rico's Olympic flag-bearer at the Youth Olympic Games, receiving the flag from David Bernier, president of the COPUR. In his debut, Rodríguez defeated Vasily Vetkin of Russia by points, finishing with scores of 11:4 after an even start. In the semifinals, he fought in a rematch against Abdelaal. Rodríguez was ahead in the scores throughout the fight, finishing the first round ahead 3:0, scoring two more points in the second and six in the third. Abdelaal was only able to score once during the second round, for a final score of 11:1. The other boxer to advance was DJ Maaki of Nauru. Rodríguez opened the final fight ahead 9:1 after the first round, scoring thrice in the second and thrice in the third before the referee stopped the contest in his favor at the 1:34 mark. This was Puerto Rico's first Olympic gold medal, the fact that it was won by a boxer in the national team's first participation in the competition mimics the feat accomplished by Juan Evangelista Venegas, who won bronze in the delegation's debut at the 1948 Summer Olympics. Rodríguez returned to the archipelago five days later, receiving recognitions from the COPUR and municipal government of Vega Baja for his performance. Subsequently, a request for inclusion in the High Performance Full-Time Athlete Program was sent to the government, citing an exception to the standard rule, which was drafted to include medalists at the Pan American Games, World Championships or senior Olympics.
On November 12, 2010, Rodríguez was involved in an incident where a pickup truck was partially damaged. He and a companion were burned, being initially attended at a hospital in Vega Baja, before both were transferred to the specialized burn care unit of Centro Médico in San Juan, where he was placed in preventive intubation to ease the stress on his lungs. Rodríguez suffered second degree burns in approximately 66% of his body, most of the damage focusing in his back and legs. Due to the incident, Rodríguez was removed from a scheduled dual, but was kept among the recipients of a grant issued by the COPUR. By late December he was already training two to three days per week, while admitted in the burn unit and still wearing bandages around one of his arms and both legs. His trainer, Orlando Rodríguez, noted that this was the first time that he worked with a pugilist while still recovering in a hospital. Consequently, a special regime was prepared to work on his footwork, speed and strength, while including other standard practices such as shadow boxing and pads. In his first interview since the incident, Rodríguez noted that he intended to focus on his career and education from that point onwards, severing ties with any negative influence. The following week, the possibility of infection was dismissed by the medical personnel, who allowed more contact with external items, including haircutting tools. Upon being released, the original plan was to participate in the qualification of the 2011 Pan American Games, but he received a negative report from Enrique Amy, chief doctor of the COPUR's Anti-Doping Commission. The amateur boxing federation followed the recommendation. Consequently, Rodríguez spent several months of additional recovery, focused on treatment to avoid re-injuring or infecting the scar tissue in his left arm.
On September 14, 2011, Rodríguez made his official in-ring return at the V Copa Ángel "Cholo" Espada, competing within the super flyweight division. He went on to dominate the tournament, winning his first two contests following the incident with scores of 12:2 and RSC-3. On December 17, 2011, Rodríguez won the flyweight senior national championship, defeating Juan Carlos López in the tournament finals, 19:3. He had previously advanced over Michael del Valle (18:4) in the semifinals. Rodríguez entered the 2012 Torneo de Boxeo Aficionado Isaac Barrientos, which was a qualifier for the Olympic national boxing team. He advanced to the semifinals, but lost to 17-year-old Jeyvier Cintrón by a single point, mirroring his own ascension over González. Rodríguez then entered the Copa Independencia in the Dominican Republic, but lost his fight against Eddie Valenzuela due to injury (RSCI) in the third round. In this tournament Cintrón went on to win the bronce medal. A rematch took place on April 7, 2012, in which Cintrón defeated Rodríguez with a largest margin of 10:3. Unable to complete the Olympic cycle, he decided to close his amateur career and enter the professional ranks. Rodríguez trained for two months to transition and abjust to the difference in styles.
Rodríguez made his debut on June 1, 2012, in the undercard of a Puerto Rico Best Boxing event, in which he defeated Jason Agosto by knockout in the first round. In his second appearance, he defeated Jaime González by technical knockout in two rounds. Rodríguez continued performing in the undercard of other boxers, earning consecutive knockouts over Luis Ortiz and José Ruiz. His first decision win was over Ramón Emilio Cedaño, in a fight that was contested in the bantamweight limit of 118 pounds. In a card held at the Dominican Republic, Rodríguez countered the aggression of Edward Vargas to score a third round technical knockout. Competing in the undercard of José Pedraza's homecoming event, he defeated Felipe Rivas by unanimous decision. On December 21, 2013, Rodríguez won a unanimous decision over former world contender David Quijano, employing his technique throughout eight rounds.