If Emile Griffith is considered among the greatest welterweights who ever lived, then Luis Rodriguez deserves the same consideration. He and Griffith fought four times and each fight was razor close.
Rodriguez turned pro in pre-Castro Cuba in 1956. Before he left the island he would twice beat future welterweight champion Benny Paret. When the Communist regime took over, Luis remained in the United States. Cuba's loss was boxing's gain.
Campaigning in the U.S., Rodriguez quickly scored decisions over top welterweights Virgil Aikins, Isaac Logart and Garnet "Sugar" Hart. He was unbeaten in 36 fights before losing a split decision to Griffith in a 1960 non-title fight.
Rodriguez was a master boxer, capable of accomplishing anything in the ring. He was a quick counterpuncher and an elusive target. And, like another Cuban Hall of Famer Kid Gavilan, he favored throwing the bolo punch. So stylish was Luis, that Muhammad Ali incorporated many of his moves into his own repertoire when they both trained at Miami's 5th Street Gym.
In 1963, Rodriguez captured the welterweight title by scoring a unanimous decision (9-5, 8-5 and 8-6 on points) over Griffith. Six months later, fighting on Griffith's home turf of Madison Square Garden, Emile regained the crown via split decision (8-7, 9-6 and 5-10 in rounds). In their fourth and final encounter, Griffith again retained the crown by split decision (69-67, 70-68 and 70-71). Griffith's greatest margin of victory over Rodriguez was three rounds.
Rodriguez finally moved up to middleweight and continued to beat the top fighters in the world. Among the outstanding 160-pounders he defeated were George Benton, Hurricane Carter (twice), Bennie Briscoe (twice), Holley Mimms, Tom Bethea and Bobby Cassidy.
Luis challenged middleweight champion Nino Benvenuti in Rome in 1969. He was outslicking the Italian champion over the course of the fight but was suddenly knocked out in the 11th round. Luis finally retired in 1972.