Luis Manuel Rodriguez was one of those Cuban boxers who spent the early part of his career before Fidel Castro arrived that had a good professional career in Cuba. He went 21-0 defeating future world champion Benny “Kid” Paret, from 1956 to 1959 before Castro outlawed professional boxing in Cuba.
Rodriguez made his US debut defeating former world champion Virgil Akins, 50-20-1, who lost his title in his previous fight. He would defeat veteran contender Isaac Logart, 55-13-7; Philly hard hitting Garnet “Sugar” Hart; Philly’s Carl Hubbard, 17-0-2; Chico Vegar, 88-19-2; contender Yama Bahama, 61-10-2; then lose a disputed split decision to future world champion Emile Griffith, 21-2, in an elimination match to fight Cuban Benny “Kid Paret” for his welterweight title. Griffith won the title and he and Rodriguez had four fights with Rodriguez winning one. It was an era when two great champions fought at the same time.
Rodriguez would win his next four fights before losing another split decision to future world champion Curtis Cokes, 21-3-2. He would win a rematch and lose their third match. After winning the rematch with Cokes Rodriguez defeated the South American champion Luis Frederico Thompson, 130-11-10.
Rodriguez won ten straight after losing to Cokes defeating middleweight Joey Giambra, 65-8-2 right after his win over Griffith. He beat former WBA/WBC champion Denny Moyer, 35-11, who would go onto win 98 fights.
Moving back and forth between welter and middle Rodriguez defeated 1960 Olympic Gold Medalist Wilbert “Skeeter” McClure, 14-0, in back-to-back fights. Following this he defeated a pair of middleweight veterans Holly Mims, 62-26-6, and Philly’s Jesse “Crazy Horse” Smith, 45-10-5. After a loss to Griffith he defeated L.C. Morgan, 74-27-2, top middle ko puncher Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, 20-5, who was so upset trying to nail Rodriguez he picked him up in a corner and attempted to throw him out of the ring.
Winning fourteen straight fights Rodriguez would stop former top contender Philly’s George Benton, 54-9-1, in 9 rounds. Then lose to Philly’s Percy Manning, 16-3, on a disputed split decision, and another Cokes loss. Then win fifteen straight including Brazil’s Juarez de Lima, 22-1-4, Philly’s “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, 19-3, twice.
Rodriguez would even venture into the light heavyweights losing and then defeating future world champion Vicente Rondon, 12-2-1. At light middleweight he would defeat dangerous puncher Joe Shaw, 30-4-2. He would win a middleweight eliminator bout over Rafael Gutierrez, 34-4-2, but have to wait nine months before traveling to Italy to fight world champion Nino Benvenuti, 79-3-1, in one of the most partial refereeing by Italy’s Dominico Carabellese, bouts ever witnessed by this writer no TV. Every time Rodriguez drove Benvenutti against the ropes the referee warned him about using his head. Out of nowhere in the eleventh round Benvenutti stopped Rodriguez with one lucky punch.
Rodriguez would win 9 of his next 10 fights reversing the loss to Jose Gonzalez, 39-15-2, over 12 rounds. He would defeat middleweight’s southpaw Bobby Cassidy, 37-10-2, and stop Australia’s Tony Mundine, 22-1, in Australia, in the first round. After suffering back to back losses he defeated former champion Davey Hilton, 61-11. Then ending his career next with a pair of defeats compiling a 107-13, record with 49 stoppages, in 1972.
Being in the same camp and with the same trainer Angelo Dundee as Muhammad Ali overshadowed Rodriguez who Dundee said was the most gifted fighter he ever trained. Rodriguez would enter the Boxing Hall of Fame and then the IBHOF in 1997.