by David P. Greisman
BoxingScene.com: You had a long training camp away from home, and now you’ve had several days back, coming home the winner over Donovan George at Madison Square Garden on HBO. What are you feeling right now?
Rodriguez: “It’s a great feeling. You know, it’s just unreal. My hard work and dedication to the sport is finally paying off. It’s a good feeling coming back home. I have a lot of people who look up to what I’m doing. That’s even more motivation. Just coming back home and seeing my kids and seeing my family, just being around them, is amazing, especially after a big win on HBO in Madison Square Garden.”
BoxingScene.com: How hard is it for you to be away for so long?
Rodriguez: “Extremely difficult. Most of the time I’m basically just by myself. You miss the little things, even like when you’re just lying in bed and your daughter or your son just comes over and wakes you up. There’s those little things, you know what I mean? I just miss being around. I’m missing part of their life. They’re only five years old now, so every day and every week that I miss, I feel like I’m missing important things that are happening in their development. And it sucks.”
BoxingScene.com: Let’s talk about the Donovan George fight. Did it end up going how you planned for it to go?
Rodriguez: “Definitely. We tried to make it seem like we were going to war, and this and that, but I’m a lot more than just somebody that can just go at it back and forth. I finally was able to have a really good camp where I worked a lot of defense and boxing. I wanted to show the world that there was more to me than just that fighter that gets hit and hits back.
“I got a lot of criticism for not having a good defense. I always had defense, I just didn’t bother to use it. But I’m getting to that level where a game plan and fighting different styles to beat other people’s styles matters and makes a difference in the fight, because, you know, at that next level everybody’s skills are going to be right there. So now you got to be smarter than them, and you’ve got to use the things that you think are going to work to your advantage to be able to beat that certain style. I think that’s what we did for this fight.”
BoxingScene.com: Was it difficult not to get drawn into a firefight with Donovan George?
Rodriguez: “It was extremely difficult. But we had a really good training camp. It’s a lot easier to fight than to actually box, especially when you’re used to just fighting. So mentally it was extremely difficult, especially when I got hit with a good punch. I wanted to just come back and make it a war. But I just kept thinking, ‘All right, I’m going to get even as the round goes. I don’t have to get even right away.’
“That’s one of my strengths in boxing is that if you hit me, I’m going to get even. I’m competitive, but at the same time that’s also a weakness, because I’m trying to get back at him too soon. You never know, you could get hit with a good shot. I’m trying to be so competitive. I’m trying to come back right at you, and I can be hurt. But now, if I actually just think about it, I can get even, but not right away. I’m working on doing that. I’m trying to become better at it.”
BoxingScene.com: How was Donovan George, compared to what you expected?
Rodriguez: “He was what I expected. I expected somebody strong, with power in both hands, a lot of determination, a lot of courage. He was definitely that. I think that my game plan and the way I fought him, was able to — he wasn’t able to do his offense due to my defense. I don’t think it was his fault. I think it was something I was doing right.”
BoxingScene.com: A lot of us had been expecting and hoping for a big, entertaining brawl. I’m guessing you’re thinking that in the long run while that may have entertained fans, the way you approached this fight will be better for your career and your stature in the sport.
Rodriguez: “Definitely. But at the same time, you got to be able to entertain the fans. I think, in a way, we did. It could’ve been a lot more entertaining, though, if I would’ve just fought the way I used to fight. But at the same time, I was getting so much criticism, so I had to switch up my style a little bit for that fight.
“That doesn’t mean I’m always going fight like that. If I’m fighting a different style, I’m going to fight differently. I have that advantage where I can brawl, and now I just proved that I can box. My next opponent is not going to know what to expect from me, because I’m able to do more than one thing.”
BoxingScene.com: Were there any nerves being on HBO and in Madison Square Garden for the first time?
Rodriguez: “Definitely. There was a lot of nerves. But at the same time, that’s where I belong. When I step in the ring, I feel comfortable, confident, and I just had a great camp, so I think that helped me feel confident and comfortable.”
BoxingScene.com: I know you just returned home and probably don’t want to think about it, but when do you see yourself getting back in camp?
Rodriguez: “I don’t want to think about it [laughs]. I’m waiting on my manager and my team to put together what my next fight is going to be. But in the meantime, I’ll start doing light workouts, keep my body very good, staying healthy and staying in the gym. I’ll do it right at home until I have plans for my next fight.”
BoxingScene.com: Who do you want your next fight to be against?
Rodriguez: “Honestly I don’t really care. I’ll let Lou DiBella and my manager, Larry Army, do their job, as I continue to do mine. They’ve been doing a great job. Lou DiBella has been doing a really good job promoting my career, bringing me along the right way, on a lot of television. I’m glad I’m working with a guy like Lou. And my manager has been doing a good job as well. So I’m going to let them do their job as I continue to do mine.”
BoxingScene.com: Anything else you want to say?
Rodriguez: “I just want to thank all the fans for following my career. I really appreciate it.”
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]