Manny Rodriguez [18(12)-0] admits it’s struggle to separate the fab WBSS bantamweight four at present but is adamant that, by the time tournament is done, it will be clear he is the best 118lbs fighter on the planet.
After the success of the knockout eight-man tournament at cruiser and super middleweight, Comosa and Kalle Sauerland are running with bantamweights in season two along with two more to-be-confirmed weights.
Already signed up are three world champions Zolani Tete (WBO), Ryan Burnett (WBA), and Rodriguez (IBF) with Japanese KO artist and two-weight champ Naoya Inoue the fourth of eight men confirmed.
It’s a star studded world champion line up for the second series of the knock out tournament and predicting a winner from the fighters with a combined record of 80-3 has difficult.
Inoue starts off the favourite but the three world champions, and no doubt the four fighters still to be announced, will all be hugely confident that they can unify the division and emerge as the best bantamweight in the world and a pound-for-pound-rated star.
Rodriguez holds the red belt once owned by Ryan Burnett. The formerly unified world champion from Belfast had two mandatories pending at the start of this year and agreed a fight with WBA next-in-line Yonfrez Parejo. Rodriguez and his team refused to budge from their position and forced the Irishman to vacate.
The Puerto Rican then won the vacant title last month versus Burnett’s Matchroom stablemate Paul Butler, dominating the Scouser on the Bellew v Haye 2 undercard in London.
It was a perfect introduction to a wider fight audience and Rodriguez, who like Burnett won gold at the 2010 Youth Olympics, now has his sights set on dominating the division.
“The goal now is to win this tournament, that’s my next ambition,” Rodriguez told Sky Sports.
“The ultimate goal is to become the best in the world and beat the best fighters.”
Looking over the field, the Caribbean fighter noted that “there are four world champions signed up already so the quality is of the highest level. We are all at quite a similar point in our careers so it’s great to finally find out who really is the best at 118 pounds.”