Photos by Sumio Yamada
ISAAC HLATSHWAYO W12 (split) DELVIN RODRIGUEZ
Delvin Rodriguez fought well, but Isaac Hlatshwayo dug that bit deeper to win their IBF welterweight title fight on a split but well-earned decision at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut on Saturday night.
Watching the GoFightLive coverage on the internet, it appeared to me that Hlatshwayo needed a strong last round to make sure of winning and he produced his best three minutes of boxing of the contest, backing up a tiring Rodriguez and catching him with some good right hands.
It looked to me like a close but clear win for Hlatshwayo, and I was pleased that the judges got it right well, two of them, South Africa's Isaac Tshabalala and New Yorks Tony Paolillo scoring it 116-113 and 116-112 in Hlatshwayos favour, while Connecticut judge Glenn Feldman had the home-state fighter ahead, 115-113.
The first fight between Hlatshwayo and Rodriguez ended in a disputed draw in South Africa, and the rematch for the vacant title was good enough to warrant a third helping. Hlatshwayo, however, will be looking for matches against the bigger names in the welterweight division.
Rodriguez looked like a winner in the early rounds, when he boxed crisply and landed the harder punches. A big right hand had Hlatshwayos knees buckling in the second, and a right uppercut in the third lifted up his head, but gradually the South African fighter fought his way into the bout, with his stiff left jab being especially effective.
Each man boxed well in a nip-and-tuck, highly entertaining fight. Hlatshwayos left eye was swelling and starting to close from below in the middle rounds but he continued to box in a steady, purposeful fashion, hands high as he constantly pressed forward and he landed one of his best right hands of the fight in the seventh, although Rodriguez took it well.
To me, Hlatshwayo was looking the stronger fighter down the home straight, and he seemed to be outjabbing Rodriguez on the outside and outhustling him in close. Rodriguez looked dangerous always, though, although he spun himself completely around when missing with a monster left hook in the 11th round.
Rodriguez apparently suffered an injury to his right hand, but Hlatshwayo had the swollen-eye handicap.
I had Hlatshwayo a round ahead coming out for the 12th commentators Ron Scott Stevens and Randy Gordon had it much wider but it was Hlatshwayo who produced the hard-driving finish to leave no doubt in my mind that he had won the fight.