Freudis Rojas Is Cooking Up a Storm in the Welterweight Division


Freudis Rojas Jr – his friends call him Freddy – has stopped all ten of his opponents since turning professional. He goes for number 11 on Saturday at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on a Showtime event featuring undefeated lightweights Frank “The Ghost” Martin and Artem Harutyunyan in the main event.

It’s true that his ten stoppages were forged against a motley lot, but big things were expected of the six-foot-two Las Vegas native after a decorated amateur career and by all indications he has the tools to became a major factor in the red-hot welterweight division until that day comes when his body tells him it’s time to move up to a higher weight class.

Rojas, 24, is of Cuban and Mexican lineage. His father, who had a brief pro career, escaped Castro’s Cuba at the age of 16, becoming the first member of his family to leave the island. 204 nautical miles separate Havana and Miami and the elder Rojas, says Freudis Jr, actually swam to Florida, accompanied by four of his buddies, all older, two of whom never made it; they drowned. In Miami, a Catholic charities organization arranged to have him sent to Las Vegas.

“My dad arrived in Las Vegas at night (when the Strip and the downtown casino corridor is in its neon glory). He thought to himself, this place is magical. When he woke up the next morning and looked around, says Freddy, he said to himself, ‘Oh my, what have I gotten into?’”

What he got into was a career in the culinary field. He became a chef, married the love of his life, a young lady born in Mexico, and fathered four children; two boys and two girls. Freudis Jr, 24, is the oldest. His younger brother Emmanuel, 4-0 as a pro, is also pursuing a career in the sweet science.

Freddy graduated from Chaparral High School in Las Vegas. Did he play other sports there, we asked. “I made the junior varsity football team,” he said, “but kept it a secret from my parents. My dad turned up at our first game and literally yanked me off the field at halftime. Back then, I didn’t weigh much more than a hundred pounds and he was afraid I would get hurt. I was so embarrassed.”

By then, Rojas’s dad had already enrolled him in an amateur boxing program. At first, Freddy didn’t like it, but he gradually embraced the sport and came to see that his father knew best; that his future lay in boxing. This was confirmed when he won a bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. No American had medaled in this tournament in the previous five years. En route to the bronze, he defeated veteran Russian campaigner Vitaly Dunaytsev, the 2015 gold medalist and a future Olympian.

Rojas’s favorite active boxer is Guillermo Rigondeaux, a fellow southpaw, but he feels an affinity toward Thomas Hearns who from a physical standpoint was hewed from a similar cloth. The rangy Hearns was at his best as a welterweight where young Rojas resides after finishing his amateur career fighting at 152 pounds.

When Rojas enters the ring on Saturday, he will be accompanied by his father and Kay Koroma. He has known “Coach Kay” for more than ten years, ever since he was invited to the Team USA training center in Colorado Springs as a member of the junior team. Koroma played an instrumental role in the amateur career of two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields and currently handles Shu Shu Carrington and Efe Ajagba, among others. They currently reside in a camp house conveniently located a stone’s throw from the DLX gym in Las Vegas.

As an amateur, Freddy traveled the world and as a pro he has fought six times in Costa Rica where his manager Marlon Johnson has connections. Saturday’s fight will be his first as a pro in his hometown and his first for promoter Sampson Lewkowicz who recently inked him to a multi-fight contract. Lewkowicz promotes David Benavidez, among others, and was involved in the careers of Manny Pacquiao and former unified middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.

In preparation for Saturday’s fight, Rojas sparred with Terence Crawford in Houston where the Rojas family now has a home, and with Boots Ennis in Philadelphia. As for his opponent, that remains a mystery as these words are being written. He was scheduled to fight Diego Santiago Sanchez, a boxer from Tijuana with a 19-2 record, but Sanchez dropped out. Rojas has been assured that a suitable opponent will be found, but this is boxing where nothing is ever etched in stone.

Outside the ring, Freddy Rojas is understated. In his dress and demeanor, there’s none of the bombast that casual fans associate with a prizefighter. Someday he would like to own a restaurant; his hobby is cooking. To that end, he has taken classes at UNLV where the School of Hotel Administration offers a Bachelor of Science Degree in Culinary Arts.

Would it be a restaurant with a Cuban-influenced menu, we inquired. “Actually,” he says, “I’m partial to Italian.”

Perhaps someday we will see Freudis “Freddy” Rojas Jr on the Food Network but, if so, that’s far off in the future. He has plenty of business to take care of before he finally hangs up his gloves.