by David P. Greisman
It hadnít even been an hour since Edwin Rodriguez learned that his HBO debut ó at Madison Square Garden on March 17 against Donovan George ó was official. And so it was no surprise that the 26-year-old super middleweight, 20-0 (14 knockouts), from Worcester, Mass., sounded so elated. The bout will be aired on the undercard to Sergio Martinez vs. Matthew Macklin.
Rodriguez spoke with BoxingScene.com about the news.
BoxingScene.com: Youíre not only going to be making your HBO debut, but youíll be making your HBO debut at Madison Square Garden. You just got the news that itís official. Whatís going through your mind right now?
Rodriguez: ďMan, thatís a great feeling. Madison Square Garden ó itís huge. Itís one of those places thatís legendary. So many good fighters have fought there. Iím just full of emotions right now. First time on HBO, which is huge. HBO is the biggest channel in boxing. A lot of world champions donít get an opportunity to be on HBO. Iím blessed. Iím extremely happy. I want to thank Lou DiBella and my manager, Larry Army, for giving me such a big opportunity. Itís an honor for me to be part of this, and itís a dream come true.Ē
BoxingScene.com: What kind of expectations come with you being on HBO and at Madison Square Garden?
Rodriguez: ďA lot of expectations. But this is what we do it for. We want to be on the biggest stage. And it doesnít get any bigger than Madison Square Garden, and HBO as well. But we live for this. We train hard for this. We work hard to get to this level. And now itís here, and Iím going to take full advantage of it, because a lot of people donít get second chances. This is my chance, and Iím just going to do the best with it.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Youíre training already. How long have you been back in camp?
Rodriguez: ďIím in Houston, Texas, working with Ronnie Shields. Iíve been in camp for a couple weeks.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Iím hearing this could be a title eliminator. Is this? Is it a 10-round fight or a 12-round fight?
ďI think itís a 12-round fight. I think itís a title eliminator, but I am not 100 percent. Weíre both highly ranked by the IBF. Heís fourth and Iím five, but thereís nobody at 1 and 2. Weíre the highest-ranked fighters. I believe thereís one guy ahead of us. His nameís Pablo Farias, who just lost to Arthur Abraham. So heís probably out of the picture, so that leaves us two. Iím pretty sure that weíll be fighting a title eliminator for the IBF, but like I said, Iím not 100 percent sure.Ē
BoxingScene.com: If this does turn out to be a title eliminator, that makes this the holy trinity of good news for you.
Rodriguez: ďThatís the icing on the cake right there!Ē
BoxingScene.com: What do you know about your opponent, Donovan George?
Rodriguez: ďHe and I fought on the same card. My first ShoBox fight [in April 2010], he was the co-feature. Heís a decent fighter. He comes forward. Heís a good puncher. He has been in a lot of wars. It goes to show that this is going to be a great fight: two up-and-comers who are extremely hungry to get to the next level and be successful. I know heís going to come to fight. Iím going to fight. So itís going to be a great fight. Itís going to be a war.Ē
BoxingScene.com: That ShoBox card was about two years ago. How do you think George has gotten better since then?
Rodriguez: ďHonestly I donít think he has improved much. I think heís still the same fighter. Heís a puncher. He has good power. I havenít really kept up with him, to be able to tell you whether heís improved or not. Last time I saw him, I thought he was a good fighter. The style that he fights, my style of fighting, weíre both going to clash.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Along the same lines, whatís the difference between who you were back then and who you are now?
Rodriguez: ďSince I started working with Ronnie Shields, I do feel like Iím a whole different fighter now. I think thatíll be the key of the fight. I can do more things than he can.Ē
BoxingScene.com: If this is to be a 12-round fight, you havenít gone 12 rounds before, have you?
Rodriguez: ďNope, but I have done more than that in the gym (laughs).Ē
BoxingScene.com: What are your thoughts on the prospect of going that full distance?
Rodriguez: ďItís a great feeling, man. I canít just wait to get in there and be in those last couple of rounds, the championship rounds, they call them, and I do feel like a champion. I think Iím going to feel great in those rounds. Iím not worried at all about going 12 rounds. I mean, he has the same task at hand. Iím not worried at all. Iím working extremely hard in the gym. Iím 100 percent focused for this fight. Like I said, itís a big opportunity, and Iím doing everything I can to stay on this level and come back to HBO.Ē
BoxingScene.com: This being on HBO, what kind of performance do you feel you need to give, aside from just winning the fight?
Rodriguez: ďIt has to look great. This is a fight thatís going to be in New York, in Madison Square Garden. Itís going to be televised on HBO, the biggest stage. A lot of boxing critics [will see it]. I have to go out and show the world a whole different Edwin Rodriguez that knows how to do it all óknows how to box, knows how to bang, and just the whole thing. Iím just going in there open-minded and am just going to fight my fight and be the best I can be.Ē
BoxingScene.com: Itís nice to think about how this happened. Andy Lee was going to be on the broadcast and the card, and now heís not, and here you are. Everything just fell in line.
Rodriguez: ďYou know what, Iíve called it a miracle. I wasnít even supposed to be on the card. We got a spot to fight before Andy Lee, and then all of a sudden things just started falling in place, and then things started working out for us. This is what we were looking for. We actually didnít take a fight in January because we wanted a bigger fight, and we got it.Ē
BoxingScene.com: How many people are you going to try to bring down to New York City from Worcester?
Rodriguez: ďThe whole town (laughs).Ē
BoxingScene.com: What else do you want people to know?
Rodriguez: ďI just want to thank all the fans and all the people who have followed me throughout my whole career. Thinking back, we started with no promoter. We had about eight fights before we got picked up by Lou DiBella, because I came up short not making the Olympic team after I won two national titles. My kids were in the hospital for four months because they were born premature at 23 weeks.
ďAt that time, my kids being in the hospital, struggling to stay in boxing and do whatever I can to be able to stay at the top of my game like I was in Ď05 and Ď06, and seeing my kids go through life and death, and now being at the spot where now I look back to that and it doesnít even feel real.
ďJust fighting through all that and going eight fights without a promoter and basically just fighting for little or no money, and then being picked up by a good promoter like Lou DiBella. Going from that to being on HBO, itís a dream come true. You know, Iím shaking right now. Iím so excited. Iím just ready. Looking back to everything Iíve gone through, and now Iím at the point where my career is taking off.
ďItís a great feeling ó and itís on!Ē
[Note: Ronnie Shields, Rodriguez's trainer, has since confirmed the bout will be 10 rounds and not a title eliminator.]
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to email@example.com