By Keith Idec
Pawel Wolak got his first frightening look at the grotesque swelling surrounding his right eye during a post-fight interview with ESPN’s Teddy Atlas and Joe Tessitore.
“As they were interviewing us, there was a monitor behind us,” Wolak recalled on a conference call Monday to promote his rematch against Delvin Rodriguez on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. “That’s when I saw it. I was like, ‘Wow! That’s pretty bad.’ That was pretty bad.”
Wolak’s swollen-shut right eye was so bad Rodriguez and Darren Antola, Wolak’s own cut man, were surprised the fantastic fight wasn’t stopped. The ever-brave Wolak was allowed to fight until the end of a brutal brawl that resulted in a 10-round majority draw July 15 at Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan.
“I thought around the ninth round that the fight was going to be stopped,” Rodriguez said. “I tried going for the eye. My corner told me to [do that]. I really thought the referee [Steve Smoger] was going to stop it or the doctor was going to stop the fight. But I guess they knew what they were doing, the doctor knew what [he] was doing, and unfortunately it wasn’t [stopped].”
Naturally, the Polish-born Wolak wasn’t surprised he was allowed to continue competing in their junior middleweight war, despite the cartoonish bulge that became visible in the fourth round.
“I felt fine,” said Wolak (29-1-1, 19 KOs), of Rockaway, N.J. “Listen, you’ve got to put me out of the ring just to stop me from fighting. So I wasn’t surprised. I was totally fine, I wasn’t hurt. The vision was affected, the swelling was bad. But I wasn’t affected.
“My vision, my depth perception was off, obviously, just the way it would be having one eye. But again, there’s no quit in me, there’s no stopping me. I’m very happy that they let the fight continue to the very end and I’m glad the fans enjoyed the fight. Everybody wanted to do it again. We’re going to do it better this time.”
The residue of the damage remains noticeable above Wolak’s right eye 4½ months later, yet Rodriguez claimed on the conference call that he won’t be preoccupied with recreating swelling around Wolak’s right eye when they meet in their 10-round rematch, one of three bouts HBO Pay-Per-View will broadcast before the Antonio Margarito-Miguel Cotto rematch.
“I’m not looking for just the eye again,” said Rodriguez (25-5-3, 14 KOs), of Danbury, Conn. “I’m a combination puncher … I’m not just looking for the one thing.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for the Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.