Lilly Rodriguez, pioneering boxer
She also became a world champion in kickboxing.
By Valerie J. Nelson
Los Angeles Times
Posted January 22 2007
LOS ANGELES · Lilly Rodriguez, a pioneering boxer and world kickboxing champion who helped establish women's kickboxing, died Jan. 13 from complications of an infection. She was 59.
"She really changed martial arts for women," said Michael Matsuda, founder of the Martial Arts History Museum in Santa Clarita. "She was one of the few women champions in the 1970s and one of a handful of pioneers who spurred women into full-contact karate," as kickboxing originally was known
After winning the women's featherweight boxing championship in 1976, Mrs. Rodriguez added the women's featherweight kickboxing title the following year, according to her family.
She is the only female boxer in the California Boxing Hall of Fame and one of a few women in the Martial Arts History Museum's Hall of Fame.
"Nobody believed in us, or me, at first," Mrs. Rodriguez told the Los Angeles Times in 2004. "They thought it would be `foxy boxing.' But I didn't go in there wanting to show anything other than my skills in boxing."
On Nov. 16, 1979, she and William "Blinky" Rodriguez made history at the Forum in Inglewood as the first husband and wife to box on the same professional card, said Don Fraser, who promoted the fight.
"You have no idea the pressure she put on me. She went out there and dazzled them," said Blinky Rodriguez, who also became a kickboxing champion.
They both won.
After retiring from competition in the early 1990s, Mrs. Rodriguez started training other women, Matsuda said.
Fighting ran in her family. Her mother was a wrestler known professionally as Crazy Linda. Her father, an amateur boxer, started teaching Mrs. Rodriguez the sport when she was 6. One of her five brothers, Benny "the Jet" Urquidez, was an early kickboxing superstar.
For her first professional bout in the 1970s, Mrs. Rodriguez stuffed quarters in her socks and undergarments to make weight. She was 5 feet 1 inch, and 125 pounds; her opponent, "Lady Tiger," had 25 pounds on her. Mrs. Rodriguez lost the fight on a decision but "won the hearts of all the fans that night," her husband said.
A Los Angeles native, Lilly Urquidez was seven years older than the 16-year-old Rodriguez when they married in 1971. They had five sons and a daughter.