By Jake Donovan
The first fight between Delvin Rodriguez and Pawel Wolak was so good, that hardly anyone cared about the fact that it didn’t even produce a winner.
All they wanted to know was when the two East Coast-based warriors would do it again.
The prayers of an entire boxing fraternity were answered earlier this fall, when both fighters agreed to terms for a rematch that helps turn an already terrific card at Madison Square Garden into the must-see event of the year. A deal was secured for the sequel to appear as a supporting bout to another highly anticipated rematch in the main event when Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito prepares to dish out three years of built-up venom towards one another.
Such a level of hatred doesn’t run anywhere close between Rodriguez and Wolak – in fact, none at all. Both fighters earned the hell out of each other’s respect in their July war at Roseland Ballroom. Both can’t wait to do it again, 20 city blocks away from the site of their first bout.
“It’s two different styles that make great fights,” Rodriguez (25-5-3, 14KO) explains of the formula for the sequel living up to – and perhaps surpassing – the original. “Pawel is a warrior that comes forward. He’ll do whatever he can to stay on top of me. I can box, but I can also trade. It will be great, and even better than the first one.”
Outdoing the original would be quite a statement, considering their first fight is widely regarded as high among the year’s best, and certainly the most savage war to be featured in the revamped history of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.
The fight was so good that ESPN made exception to its own rule and found a way to squeeze in a replay slot, just to ensure that fans of the Worldwide Leader in Sports weren’t deprived.
“These guys on July 15 fought their hearts out. It was the first time ever that a fight was replayed on ESPN unscheduled,” notes Star Boxing head honcho Joe DeGuardia, Rodriguez’ promoter.
HBO has made exceptions in the past when it comes to replaying undercard bouts. Arturo Gatti’s five-round war with Gabriel Ruelas in October ’97 made its way to the replay broadcast even though it was merely the co-feature to Lennox Lewis’ one-round destruction of Andrew Golota.
More recently, extensive highlights of Antonio DeMarco’s comeback knockout win over Jorge Linares this past October made its way to HBO’s rebroadcast of Chad Dawson-Bernard Hopkins a week later.
Unfortunately, the reality is that tuning in for this weekend’s pay-per-view is most likely the only chance fans will have to see the rematch. The good news is that enough buzz was created from the first fight that those same fans will find a way to catch the sequel.
“I got a lot of recognition from the first fight,” Rodriguez admits. “The first reaction I got from fans was ‘Are they going to give you a rematch?’ I told them I certainly hope so. They also asked me, ‘How come the fight wasn’t stopped?’ But yeah, a lot of recognition, though, and a lot of calls.”
The ‘stoppage’ question is a reference to the grotesque swelling Wolak suffered in a right eye that still doesn’t appear to have fully recovered. The injury hindered Wolak’s performance after building up an early lead, with Rodriguez roaring back in the second half to win the fight on one card and pull even on the other two in settling for a majority draw.
Cotto commented of his main event with Margarito that he’ll exploit any weakness presented by his opponent, including rumors of his eyes not being as pristine as medical reports have suggested.
Don’t expect Rodriguez to follow suit. He’s prepared for the best available version of Wolak and plans to stick to what works best for the Dominican boxer-puncher.
“I’m not looking for (the eye) right away,” Rodriguez admits. “I’m a combination puncher. I’m not just looking for the one thing. How do you keep somebody off of you? You have to let those combinations go. It’s going to make for a great fight.”
What he also hopes it makes for is a change in his luck. Despite still regarded as a tough out in and around the welterweight and super welterweight divisions, Rodriguez has won just two of his last seven bouts. There is a case to be made that is possibly 5-2 or even 6-1 over that same stretch, including the argument that he deserved the nod against Wolak.
Rodriguez stops short of co-signing on that theory, instead looking for flaws in the first fight that he can correct in the rematch in order to make up the difference on the cards, should it reach another decision verdict.
“It was a close fight, a tough fight. I look at the fight many times. I can say I landed the cleaner punches and the harder punches. I’m not jealous but that’s what I saw. Now at the end (of camp), I just watch the first four or five rounds because that was the worst part of the fight for me. There’s no doubt about it, I watch it as a great fight, but also to see what I can do better in the rematch.”
No matter the outcome, it figures to be win-win for all parties involved, including the fans.
“I’m pleased that Pawel and Delvin have the chance to do it again,” notes DeGuardia. “It’s good for their careers. It’s good for their pockets and it’s good for the sport.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected].