By Francisco Salazar
Edwin Rodriguez has talked a good game so far.
He’s unbeaten, has power in both hands, and is extremely confident going into his 12 round fight against Andre Ward this Saturday night at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA.
Is he talking a good game thus far or does he really believe he will be the first fighter to give Ward his first defeat as a pro?
Only Rodriguez could answer that question. Actions speak louder than words if he is able to back up his talk in the ring on Saturday night.
If you look at what he has accomplished so far, maybe it will be hard to believe Rodriguez.
He is unbeaten, but he has not had a career-defining victory thus far. Although he does hit hard, maybe the knockouts came against less than modest competition.
Most importantly, is his confidence masking questions and doubts he may have going up against a solid fighter in Ward?
Rodriguez is unbeaten for a reason. Let us give credit for that. When he speaks, it is from the heart and his confidence is genuine. He believes he will have his hand raised in victory in the ring on Saturday night.
He is not some puncher who hopes to land one punch and win by knockout. He was an amateur standout, winning a number of titles before turning pro in January of 2008.
Through the trials and tribulations in his career and the hard work he has put in for this fight, he is ready for Saturday night.
“I’ll be at my best to beat him,” Rodriguez told a small group of reporters at a recent sit-down. “I’m a 12-round fighter and I’m not just focused on going for the knockout. I can’t afford to have a bad night.”
“I know he (Ward) is really good at what he does. He’s smart. But I’ve done my homework. I have more motivation for this fight than I’ve had for any fight before. I know that I haven’t been in this position before but I’ll be at my best.”
The Dominican-born Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs), who resides in Worcester, MA, has fought twice outside of the United States after appearing twice on HBO in 2012.
Earlier this year, Rodriguez defeated Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna on March 30th by unanimous decision and scored a first round knockout over Denis Grachev on July 13th. Both fights were in Monaco.
The excitement of fighting in the United States in over a year has been something Rodriguez has looked forward to.
“I have a lot of motivation to come in and win this fight.”
Even the motivation or game plan Rodriguez is planning for Ward will not be enough, in the minds of a majority of boxing writers and fight fans. Some wonder if Rodriguez’s claims of VADA testing were something to throw Ward off.
It is not, according to Lou DiBella, who promotes Rodriguez. An adamant supporter of VADA, Rodriguez has been open to being tested at any time. Rodriguez was disappointed Ward did not follow suit for this fight.
“The whole VADA thing was brought up in passing during negotiations, but it was not a stipulation,” DiBella said over the phone on Thursday. “It’s not a huge issue. Since VADA was sponsoring the fight and paying for testing, we thought Ward would have ample time to do testing. He chose not to.”
“It’s a personal issue for Edwin and I’m proud of him for that.”
While Rodriguez has dealt with detractors who think he may not win on Saturday night, no one would question his mental toughness.
He has had to deal with personal setbacks years ago that included his twins being born almost four months prematurely. The twins were diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which was something Rodriguez and his wife Stephanie had to deal with economically and emotionally.
While the twins are healthy as could be, Rodriguez has been able to build off of seeing his twins get stronger with each passing day.
Which probably explains why Rodriguez has been able to build and capitalize on the success he has had in recent months, especially in the Grachez fight, where boxing experts gave Rodriguez a small chance of winning.
“I’m just encouraged at seeing what my kids have done in the last seven years.”
Rodriguez may hear the critics give him little chance to defeat Ward on Saturday. Then again, the same could be said of doctors and physicians who may have not given his kids much of a chance to survive.
However, just as his children proved some doubters wrong, he is eager to do the same. What a victory it would be for Rodriguez to pull off the upset against the recognized linear world champion at 168 pounds.
Rodriguez is eager to make it happen.
“I want to be the best I could be. Ward is the best at 168 pounds and he did things to be recognized. Now I want to be great. I have to be the best. I’m coming to win.”
“I’m a winner.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Knockout Nation, and for Ring TV. He could be reached by email at [email protected] or on twitter at FSalazarBoxing.