By Mitch Abramson
Joe DeGuardia, the promoter from the Bronx, is a glass half-full type of guy. But more than three months after his fighter, Delvin Rodriguez waged one of the more memorable bouts with Pawel Wolak on Friday Night Fights on July 15, a rematch seemed unlikely. The two battled to a majority draw, Wolak fought nearly the second half of the fight with his right eye shut, and Rodriguez comported himself more than adequately, moving up from welterweight to junior middleweight for the fight.
While DeGuardia lobbied for an immediate rematch, the other side didn’t quite share his enthusiasm. Intent on capitalizing on the publicity he got from the first fight, Wolak was angling for a title shot and wasn’t interested in a rematch so soon.
But circumstances changed and Wolak and Rodriguez agreed to the rematch on Sept. 28 after a bout between junior featherweight titlist Rico Ramos and interim titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux fell through over a reported discrepancy over the purses between the two promoters involved. A fight was needed to replace it on the Dec. 3 undercard of Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito II at Madison Square Garden, and suddenly the rematch was an attractive option. Wolak was scheduled to fight on the Dec. 3 undercard in a stay-busy fight, but that was suddenly scuttled.
The deal was sweetened with both Wolak and Rodriguez making considerably more money for the rematch on Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden, and both sides agreed to do it again, much to DeGuardia’s delight.
“Look, I’ve been hopeful this fight would take place and I was trying to get it done and I always held out hope it would happen, sooner than later,” DeGuardia said. “What made it happen? I think the realization by Wolak that this is the fight people want to see and it’s the fight that makes sense for them and for the sport. Frankly, we were fortunate because of the timing with the other fight that ran into trouble.”
After Top Rank reached out to DeGaurdia about making the rematch, he said he was like a “shark that saw the blood in the water” in terms of hammering out a deal.
“I wanted to make sure we got the deal,” he said. “We didn’t play any games. The deal got done in two days. It was a very quick deal.”
DeGuardia was actually in the process of making another fight for Rodriguez for early November when Top Rank reached out to him. He quickly changed course, with Rodriguez’s blessing. As for the money, it will be the biggest payday for both fighters, though DeGuardia balked at saying how much each fighter would make, only that’s it under $100,000.
A bit surprisingly, there is no rematch clause in the contract for the second fight, DeGuardia said. The action in the first fight has been compared to the Gatti-Ward trilogy, but there won’t be a mandated third fight between Wolak and Rodriguez right away as dictated by the contract.
“It’s just a straight fight where the winner moves on,” DeGuardia said. “They’re both making much more than they made in the first fight. They’re both being fairly compensated, and the winner of this fight will make good money in their next fight, whether it’s a mega-fight for a title. A lot of doors will open for whoever wins this fight.”
The rematch is schedule to go on second on the PPV telecast. Why not in the co-main event? The rematch promises to be another war, just like the rematch between Cotto and Margarito in the main event.
“We wanted to give the fans a break,” DeGuardia said laughing. “It might be too much to have those fights go back-to-back.”
No matter where it takes place, DeGuardia is excited to have Rodriguez fight in the big room at Madison Square Garden on HBO PPV. And the promoter, ever optimistic, has visions of Rodriguez fighting the winner of the main event.
“Can you imagine a fight with Delvin and Cotto at Madison Square Garden during the Puerto Rican Day parade?” DeGuardia said. “It would be incredible. I’m looking forward to it.”
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.