by David P. Greisman
It hadn’t even been an hour since Edwin Rodriguez learned that his HBO debut — at Madison Square Garden on March 17 against Donovan George — 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: You’re not only going to be making your HBO debut, but you’ll be making your HBO debut at Madison Square Garden. You just got the news that it’s official. What’s going through your mind right now?
Rodriguez: “Man, that’s a great feeling. Madison Square Garden — it’s huge. It’s one of those places that’s legendary. So many good fighters have fought there. I’m 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 don’t get an opportunity to be on HBO. I’m blessed. I’m extremely happy. I want to thank Lou DiBella and my manager, Larry Army, for giving me such a big opportunity. It’s an honor for me to be part of this, and it’s a dream come true.”
BoxingScene.com: What kind of expectations come with you being on HBO and at Madison Square Garden?
Rodriguez: “A lot of expectations. But this is what we do it for. We want to be on the biggest stage. And it doesn’t 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 it’s here, and I’m going to take full advantage of it, because a lot of people don’t get second chances. This is my chance, and I’m just going to do the best with it.”
BoxingScene.com: You’re training already. How long have you been back in camp?
Rodriguez: “I’m in Houston, Texas, working with Ronnie Shields. I’ve been in camp for a couple weeks.”
BoxingScene.com: I’m hearing this could be a title eliminator. Is this? Is it a 10-round fight or a 12-round fight?
“I think it’s a 12-round fight. I think it’s a title eliminator, but I am not 100 percent. We’re both highly ranked by the IBF. He’s fourth and I’m five, but there’s nobody at 1 and 2. We’re the highest-ranked fighters. I believe there’s one guy ahead of us. His name’s Pablo Farias, who just lost to Arthur Abraham. So he’s probably out of the picture, so that leaves us two. I’m pretty sure that we’ll be fighting a title eliminator for the IBF, but like I said, I’m not 100 percent sure.”
BoxingScene.com: If this does turn out to be a title eliminator, that makes this the holy trinity of good news for you.
Rodriguez: “That’s the icing on the cake right there!”
BoxingScene.com: What do you know about your opponent, Donovan George?
Rodriguez: “He and I fought on the same card. My first ShoBox fight [in April 2010], he was the co-feature. He’s a decent fighter. He comes forward. He’s 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 he’s going to come to fight. I’m going to fight. So it’s going to be a great fight. It’s going to be a war.”
BoxingScene.com: That ShoBox card was about two years ago. How do you think George has gotten better since then?
Rodriguez: “Honestly I don’t think he has improved much. I think he’s still the same fighter. He’s a puncher. He has good power. I haven’t really kept up with him, to be able to tell you whether he’s improved or not. Last time I saw him, I thought he was a good fighter. The style that he fights, my style of fighting, we’re both going to clash.”
BoxingScene.com: Along the same lines, what’s the difference between who you were back then and who you are now?
Rodriguez: “Since I started working with Ronnie Shields, I do feel like I’m a whole different fighter now. I think that’ll be the key of the fight. I can do more things than he can.”
BoxingScene.com: If this is to be a 12-round fight, you haven’t gone 12 rounds before, have you?
Rodriguez: “Nope, but I have done more than that in the gym (laughs).”
BoxingScene.com: What are your thoughts on the prospect of going that full distance?
Rodriguez: “It’s a great feeling, man. I can’t 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 I’m going to feel great in those rounds. I’m not worried at all about going 12 rounds. I mean, he has the same task at hand. I’m not worried at all. I’m working extremely hard in the gym. I’m 100 percent focused for this fight. Like I said, it’s a big opportunity, and I’m doing everything I can to stay on this level and come back to HBO.”
BoxingScene.com: This being on HBO, what kind of performance do you feel you need to give, aside from just winning the fight?
Rodriguez: “It has to look great. This is a fight that’s going to be in New York, in Madison Square Garden. It’s 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 —knows how to box, knows how to bang, and just the whole thing. I’m just going in there open-minded and am just going to fight my fight and be the best I can be.”
BoxingScene.com: It’s nice to think about how this happened. Andy Lee was going to be on the broadcast and the card, and now he’s not, and here you are. Everything just fell in line.
Rodriguez: “You know what, I’ve called it a miracle. I wasn’t 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 didn’t take a fight in January because we wanted a bigger fight, and we got it.”
BoxingScene.com: How many people are you going to try to bring down to New York City from Worcester?
Rodriguez: “The whole town (laughs).”
BoxingScene.com: What else do you want people to know?
Rodriguez: “I 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.
“At 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 ‘05 and ‘06, and seeing my kids go through life and death, and now being at the spot where now I look back to that and it doesn’t even feel real.
“Just 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, it’s a dream come true. You know, I’m shaking right now. I’m so excited. I’m just ready. Looking back to everything I’ve gone through, and now I’m at the point where my career is taking off.
“It’s a great feeling — and it’s on!”
[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 protected]