They understood what happened to Francisco could have happened to Kennedy or any other fighter who enters a ring.
As hard as it may have been, the Rodriguez family understood.
In 2009 after Francisco's death, Alex, who was his business manager, told the Daily News he told fight promoter J Russell Peltz, "I don't know this Kennedy guy, I don't know what he is feeling right now.
“But I hope he understands that my family is not upset at him. I hope he goes on to achieve everything my brother wanted to achieve."
Saturday in Las Vegas, Kennedy gets that opportunity when he fights WBA super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao/Timothy Bradley main event for the WBO welterweight championship.
In Chicago, members of the Rodriguez family will be watching. Despite their tragedy, they remain boxing fans.
But this will be different. Seeing Kennedy fight for a world title will evoke thoughts of what was and what could have been.
"It will bring back memories of when he fought my brother," Tito Rodriguez said. "but there is nothing we can do about that now.
“We just wish [Kennedy] the best and say good luck."
Tito, like Paco, had won a Golden Gloves Championship, but he did not pursue a professional boxing career.
But Tito, like all fighters, understood the risk. Still, he wasn't prepared for what happened that fateful night at the Blue Horizon, when he and his father worked in his brother's corner.
"Everybody knows [dying in the ring] could happen," he said, "but you never really expect it will. I fought a lot of years, and I never thought I would get knocked out, never thought I would get hit hard.
“You know it, but you never go into a ring thinking that might happen to you."
Tito did not speak with Kennedy when he came to Hannehman University Hospital to check on Paco's condition.
But he did briefly meet Kennedy in 2010 at an awards presentation for Kennedy-Rodriguez winning the 2009 Briscoe Award as the Philadelphia Fight of the Year.
"We just kind of said ‘Hi' and ‘Bye,'?" Tito said. "We really didn't have a conversation.
“I pretty sure [Kennedy's] intentions were not to hurt anyone the way [Paco] got hurt. “It was just something that happened."
The bout was stopped in the 10th round, with Kennedy scoring a technical knockout. Moments after the fight, Francisco lost consciousness and later died from injuries to his brain.
It was a clean but brutal fight. Both fighters had been making names for themselves that could have led to bigger opportunities.
Tito said he saw one of Kennedy's fights and read about him after Paco's death, but he hasn't closely monitored his career.
Like every other boxing fan, the Rodriguezes are interested mainly in Pacquiao vs. Bradley.
Still, Tito said he will think that this could have been Paco's big opportunity.
Sometimes he wonders whether fighting for a world title belt was supposed to be in Paco's future.
But then it is back to reality.
"I'm a believer that we all have our day set," Tito said. "If that was [Paco's] time, then that was his time. We don't know when our time is, but I'm sure it is set somewhere."
Because Paco's story continued when some of his organs were donated to help save five other people, Rodriguez' family has gotten use to revisiting the tale.
"It's day-to-day for us," Tito said. "We hear about it; then we don't hear about it for a while, and then it's brought up again.
“There are some people still out there living because of [Paco's] organs, and that is satisfying to us." n
Contact John Smallwood at email@example.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/johnsmallwood.