By Keith Idec
MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Joe Botti realizes even those immersed in boxing don’t know much about Jason Escalera away from the local level.
That, according to Escalera’s trainer/father figure, is about to change. Botti wrote on Facebook the morning of Escalera’s biggest fight that the heavy-handed underdog is prepared to make “a dynamic introduction” to fight fans worldwide in an HBO main event Saturday night.
Botti and Escalera understand, of course, that becoming the first professional fighter to defeat emerging super middleweight contender Edwin Rodriguez won’t be an easy task. It is an assignment, however, that Escalera is certain he can handle.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Escalera told BoxingScene.com. “I’m ready. Most people think that I’ve been pushed too fast for this fight. They’re not rushing me. I feel like I’m ready for this shot.”
The 27-year-old Escalera (13-0-1, 12 KOs) fought just 25 times as an amateur, but made quite an impression in New Jersey boxing circles from 2004-2007.
The Union City native’s imposing power not only enabled him to hurt most foes, it ended the once-promising career of an accomplished amateur named Alan Lawrence. The Newark native never fought after Escalera knocked him unconscious en route to winning a 178-pound, open-class New Jersey Golden Gloves title one stunning night 5½ years ago at Westfield (N.J.) High School.
“It’s a fun fight because Escalera can bomb and he’s going to throw a lot of punches,” said Lou DiBella, Escalera’s promoter. “Edwin loves to rumble, and if you stand in the middle of the ring and rumble with Escalera you put yourself in danger. I think Edwin is the class in the fight, but Escalera is an extremely dangerous guy, but also a fun TV fighter.”
Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs) decisively out-boxed another puncher, Chicago’s Donovan George (23-2-1, 20 KOs), in his last fight. The Worcester, Mass., native won that HBO-televised, 10-round bout by unanimous decision March 17 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Escalera settled for a suspect split draw in his last fight, an eight-rounder against Nick Brinson (10-1-2, 5 KOs) on May 18 in Albany, N.Y.
“I haven’t seen [Rodriguez] in the ring with people who really have power in their punches,” Escalera said. “From my point of view, he’s not going to be able to handle my punches.
“I’m going to prove that I really deserve this shot and really do deserve the spot where Rodriguez is ranked as a top-10 fighter. That’s where I belong.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.