Requiem for top ring judge
- Joaquin M. Henson () - August 1, 2002 - 12:00am
Philippine boxing will never be the same again without Vic Rodriguez, voted the Best Judge at the annual Gabriel (Flash) Elorde Awards Night this year.

Rodriguez, 54, died of a heart attack in Makati last Friday morning.

There wasn’t a more dedicated and passionate fan of the fight game. During his Ateneo school days, Rodriguez boxed in the intramurals. For 10 years up to 1984, he managed a small stable of fighters and promoted smokers. In 1989, Rodriguez celebrated his initiation as a ring judge and discovered his calling in the fistic world.

As he lay in state at the family ancestral home in La Huerta, Parañaque, a portrait of Rodriguez in a fighter’s robe, wearing boxing gloves – taken as a mock-up cover for KO Magazine–was perched on his coffin. Even in death, the sport stayed close to him.

Rodriguez worked 10 International Boxing Federation (IBF) world title fights before shifting allegiance to the World Boxing Council (WBC) last year. Last February, he was assigned his first WBC championship bout and gained plaudits for his fair scorecard in superbantamweight Willie Jorrin’s defense of his crown against Osamu Sato in Tokyo. Rodriguez was also a judge in nine IBF Intercontinental, nine Oriental, seven WBC International, and four Pan Asia Boxing Association title fights.

Last June, Rodriguez forwarded to The STAR a copy of a letter he sent to a TV broadcaster. He was "disturbed" by the "one-sided" presentation of boxing in a documentary hosted by the broadcaster. The documentary was produced in the wake of fighter Maruel Zayas’ death from a knockout in Tarlac last April.

In his letter, Rodriguez stressed that "boxing has been a way out of poverty for many poor and indigent Filipinos… (and) without boxing, Elorde would have remained a shoeshine boy and Manny Pacquiao a lowly laborer." Rodriguez argued that contrary to what the documentary implied, boxing isn’t the world’s most dangerous sport and cited statistics submitted by Lord Brooks to the House of Lords in England during the 1991 boxing bill debates that "of the 459 sports fatalities between 1969 and 1980… boxing had two deaths."

Rodriguez traveled all over the world for boxing and often attended international conventions where he rubbed elbows with high-profile fight personalities. His collection of pictures shows poses with Felix Trinidad, Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, Jackie Kallen, and Tom (Boom Boom) Johnson, among others. Because of his vast knowledge of the sport, Rodriguez was hailed as a ring scholar in global circles.

It was Rodriguez who after working the Jorrin-Sato bout, warned Pacquiao of the WBC titlist. "Jorrin’s hard to hit and very clever," said Rodriguez. "He’s a body puncher. He doesn’t hit you with straights. He hits you with a strong wallop." There is talk of eventually pairing Pacquiao and Jorrin to unify their 122-pound crowns. Rodriguez also reported that Jorrin’s cutman Dr. Steve Barad earned his medical degree at the University of the East and speaks fluent Tagalog.

Rodriguez earned a management degree at the Ateneo in 1968, a Masters in business administration at La Salle, and a doctorate in business administration at Preston University in the US. Since 1992, he was president and general manager of SEA Consultants which undertakes feasibility studies, diagnostic studies, production management, management audits, financial advisory services, financial packaging, and the holding of seminars for a host of clients, including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

The oldest of three children, Rodriguez is survived by brother Dr. Eddie Boy, sister Gina, and sons Vinci, 25, and Dino, 20. At the 1996 IBF convention in Toronto, Rodriguez brought along his two sons whom he doted on.

"Vic lived every day like it was his last," said his close friend Marissa. "He was always sweet to his sons, telling them ‘I love you’ at the end of each day."

Boxing was so much a part of Rodriguez’ life that even at home, he would play video games, using fantasy fighters in a dream match, up to the wee hours.

Rodriguez never smoked nor drank. He used to spar eight rounds in the gym. But he neglected to undergo regular checkups despite prodding from his brother who is a doctor.

Aside from boxing, Rodriguez indulged in another hobby– drumming. He headed the band "Mixed Emotions" which plays music from the ’60s and ’70s. Alex Libongco, a seatmate and buddy from Ateneo grade school, described Rodriguez as a frustrated drummer during their elementary days but said he became good at it. Another Ateneo classmate Jun-Jun Capistrano said Rodriguez had agreed to a "Mixed Emotions" gig to raise funds for the Ateneo on Aug. 7. Now the group is left without a drummer and bandleader.

Games and Amusements Board (GAB) chairman Eduardo Villanueva and commissioners Emmanuel Palabrica and Angel Bautista and Rep. Eduardo Zialcita of Parañaque paid their respects to Rodriguez at his wake last Monday. Friends, relatives, admirers, co-workers, and personalities from the boxing world came in droves. Jesuit priest Fr. Luis Candelaria, who was Headmaster when Rodriguez was a student, came to say a Mass. Rodriguez was buried at the Parañaque Cemetery yesterday.

Rodriguez, complaining of shortness of breath and pain in his chest, was rushed to the Makati Medical Center at about 6 a.m. last Friday. He was conscious as doctors tried to relieve the pain. He initially suffered a mild stroke but it later turned into a massive heart attack. Rodriguez then lapsed into a coma and doctors frantically tried to revive him to no avail. He quietly passed away at 10 a.m.

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