By Peter Lim
Undefeated super middleweight Edwin Rodriguez, 21-0 (14 KOs), hopes to prove a point against Jason Escalera, 13-0-1 (12 KOs), at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, CT, this Saturday night: that he's willing and ready to face the elites in the star-studded super middleweight division.
At the top of the heap of the 168-pounders, of course, is Super Six champ Andre Ward, who recently reaffirmed his superiority in the division with a dominant TKO over WBC light heavyweight titleholder Chad Dawson. Then there's the likes of Carl Froch, Kelly Pavlik and Mikkel Kessler, top-shelf fighters who trail Ward in achievement but exceed him in terms of selling power. Rodriguez said he has no qualms about fighting in Europe should the opportunity arise.
"I think I'm ready now," Rodriguez told The Houston Chronicle. "One of my main goals in this fight is to send a message to everyone in the super middleweight division. The division's stacked with talent so I just want to go in there, send a message and let everybody know that I'm willing to take on anybody."
Rodriguez's trainer Ronnie Shields concurs, pointing out that Rodriguez has sparred with and held his own against Froch, Lucien Bute and Jean Pascal in the past. Shields, who has been Rodriguez's corner for his last four fights, has been working on improving his defense and versatility.
Both Shields and Rodriguez said they will be wary but not intimidated by Rodriguez punching power come Saturday night.
"I know he's a big puncher. But his strength is also his weakness," Rodriguez said. "He's young and hungry so I'll use that against him. He's going to come and try and do the only thing he knows how to do - gut it out and be reckless. That's how I'm going to catch him and put him away."
"Escalera is a short little guy who tries to get you with one punch and knock you out," Shields said. "We're going to fight his fight, and fight him right in the middle of the ring."