Chicago boxer dies in Philadelphia

November 23, 2009 (CHICAGO) Franciso Rodriguez was married and the father of an infant daughter.

Rodriguez was taken from the ring to a hospital for emergency brain surgery. He was 25 years old.

Rodriguez trained at a West Side gym.

The boxing community in Chicago is relatively small and tightly knit. Rodriguez's sudden death is hitting the community very hard.

Rodriguez was around boxing his whole life and grew up in the gym with his father and brothers who all boxed. The 25-year-old had a promising future as a professional fighter. The five-time Golden Gloves champion was 14-3 as a pro.

"Frankie was a good friend and fellow boxer. We went to nationals together. Actually a great guy, great guy. And a greater fighter," said Frankie Tafoya, friend.

His Friday night fight in Philadelphia was the main event, a 10-round match against Teon Kennedy. But after the referee stopped the fight in the final round, Rodriguez slumped over and his body went limp. He was barely able to breathe.

"After the ninth round, he was checked by me in the corner. He looked OK and answered my questions appropriately...we all thought he was well enough to continue," said Dr. Jonathan Levyn, ring physician.

They gave Rodriguez oxygen in the ring. Doctors later placed him on life support. He died a short time afterward in the hospital.

Friends recall a talented boxer who was also a fun, cheerful guy who always had a smile on his face. His death is hitting the local community hard.

"Francisco was very well liked in the Chicago community. He had a lot of fans," said Dominic Pesoli, former manager.

"Tragic thing. Every boxer knows that there is a risk," said Mike Garcia, JABB Boxing.

His death has devastated not only his Chicago family but his opponent as well.

"We're all family now," said Ernest Kennedy, Teon Kennedy's Father.

Francisco was 25 years old and survived by his wife and five-month-old baby daughter. A boxer at his level makes very little money but was hoping to move up. His family is struggling to pay for his funeral. Contributions can be made to the:

Francisco Rodriguez Fund
National Republic Bank of Chicago
1201 W. Harrison 60607

Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.