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Forgotten Champions: Eloy Rojas


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Eloy Rojas was one of the longest-reigning world champions from Venezuela, along with Antonio Esparragoza and Antonio Cermeno. He held the WBA featherweight title from December 1993 till May 1996, making 6 defenses of it. He lost it to a great fighter, which is no shame either-Wilfredo Vazquez sr. Rojas was a strong and tough fighter who could box and punch. His probably most famous victory was over Samart Payakaroon, whom he stopped on his comeback run in 1994. After losing his world title, he had a layoff and came back after 3 years, but his career would never again hit such highs as previously. Here is the story of a forgotten champion from Venezuela, Eloy Rojas.

 

Eloy David Rojas Leandro was born in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, 25 March 1967, and was raised there. He stands 5'6, a pretty standard height for a featherweight. He started his pro career already at 19, in December 1986 and won his first fight on points. His power then showed as he scored no less than 21 straight knockouts, along the way capturing the Venezuelan title and the WBA Fedelatin one as well, before challenging for the WBA one against Young Kyun Park of South Korea. Naturally, the fight was in Seoul, 14 September '91 and the young challenger put up a good fight but lost by a clear unanimous decision. The two would meet again however. After defending his Fedelatin title three times, he once again challenged Park and though they again fought in S Korea, this time he somehow managed to get a split decision over the champion! Which was truly not easy over there. The date was 4 December '93 when Rojas became the new WBA champion. For his first defense, he had to go abroad again, this time to Kobe Japan, where he stopped Seiji Asakawa by TKO5. Rojas became a "road warrior", as he defended his title all across the globe. In his second defense, he went to Thailand to fight the former WBC super bantam champion Samart Payakaroon, who was much taller than Rojas (he is listed as 6'3 in one source, tho I doubt he is actually that tall, more like 6'0) and a former world Muay Thai champ as well. He was on his comeback trail after a longer layoff and was expected to beat Rojas, who was still pretty unknown. The fight happened in Trang, Thailand, 11 September '94 and Rojas proved Payakaroon was over the hill when he sent him into retirement after stopping him by a TKO8. He was firmly ahead on all scorecards by then. For his third defense, he went to Bogota in Colombia to defend against another former super bantam world champion, Luis Mendoza. The fight was on 3 December and Rojas retained his title with a mostly-close UD. He then faced Young Kyun Park for the third time in his fourth defense, which again took place in Korea, this time Gwangju City. He once again had to settle for a split decision, despite one judge scoring it 118-109 for him. His last two successful defenses were against Nobutoshi Hiranaka and Miguel Arrozal, in August '95 and January '96 respectively, both by UD.

 

He then finally faced a great name when he took on Wilfredo Vazquez, who was on a comeback trail after losing his WBA super bantam title to Antonio Cermeno, Rojas' countryman. The fight happened at Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and was Rojas' first there, 18 May 1996. First 5 rounds were fought in a tremendous pace. In the 6th, Rojas started to box and move more, but late in the round he got caught flush with a straight right hand and hurt. He managed to survive the round and come back strong. After 10 rounds, Rojas was firmly ahead on the scorecards, one judge even giving him all the rounds. Vazquez came out aggressively in the 11th and wobbled Rojas with a left hook and then knocked him into the ropes with a follow up right. After receiving a count, the fight was resumed and Vazquez then finished Rojas off with a series of hard lefts and rights which put him down and out. This was later named the KO of the Year by The Ring. For Rojas, this violent knockout put his career on a downward slope from which it never recovered. He was away from the ring for 3 years before coming back in late 1999, as a lightweight. After winning 6 minor fights and drawing one, he dropped a majority decision to Ricky Quiles on 5 December 2003. On 19 March next year, he won the WBC Caribbean light welter title by knocking out the 25-0 Ramon Arrellano in 1 round, which was rather impressive. He then fought the compatriot Fernando Angulo, who would go on to be a contender, and lost to him by a SD12 in a fight for the WBA Fedecentro lightweight title, 25 October same year. In his last fight on 26 February 2005, he went to Hull in Canada to fight Herman Ngoudjo for the vacant NABF 140-pound title and after 8 rounds of punishment, chose not to come out for the next round, thus losing by a TKO. He retired at the age of almost 38 and a record of 40 wins, 28 by ko, 5 losses and 2 draws.

 

Eloy Rojas was one of the best South American featherweights, one can safely say. In his prime, he was hard to beat. There is no info about his current whereabouts, but I assume he lives off training young boxers. I hope you enjoyed this presentation.

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