Fallen fighter gives gift of life

November, 24, 2009
11/24/09
10:23
AM ET
The death of junior featherweight Francisco "Paco" Rodriguez on Sunday night will not be in vain.

Two days after Rodriguez was knocked out by Teon Kennedy in the 10th round of a ferocious fight for a regional title at Philadelphia's famed Blue Horizon, Rodriguez died from a brain injury he suffered in the bout.

His death, however, will save the lives of at least eight people, including his uncle. Rodriguez's family announced that it was donating multiple organs from the fallen fighter, including a kidney to his uncle.

"We just learned that Paco and our uncle are a match," said Alex Rodriguez, Francisco's brother. "Our uncle has been on the waiting list for a kidney transplant for a long, long time. So although we've tragically lost Paco, we're able to give this incredible gift of life to another family member.

"My family is desperately grieving the loss of Paco, but there is some comfort knowing that he will save at least eight lives and benefit so many families."

Rodriguez's organs are being donated through the "Gift of Life" donor program, Alex Rodriguez said.

"My brother was so strong and healthy," he said. "His heart and lungs were in perfect condition. It would have been a terrible waste not to share his life with others. How could we not help another family? My daughter was born with just one kidney, and thank God she's beautiful and healthy. But, God forbid, she ever needs a transplant. … I'm absolutely sure that Paco, in a heartbeat, would have offered her his kidney.

"My brother was and always will be 'The People's Champ.' Now he's a hero, too."

Rodriguez (14-3-1, 8 KOs), who was 25, was rushed into brain surgery at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia after the fight Friday night, but he never regained consciousness and died Sunday. He is survived by his wife, 5-month-old daughter, parents and two brothers.

Rodriguez, who was born in Mexico but grew up in Chicago, was a five-time Chicago Golden Gloves Champion; a 2000 National Golden Gloves bronze medalist; and, in 2001, when he was 17, a National Golden Gloves Champion. In 2004, Rodriguez advanced to the U.S. Olympic trials by outpointing Kennedy.

The family announced that an account had been set up to help with the family's heavy medical expenses. Donations can be made to the Francisco Rodriguez Estate fund account No. 707331062 at any Chase Bank location.

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