By Jake Donovan
The March 17 HBO-televised co-feature between Edwin Rodriguez and Donovan George will not come with the benefit of the winner receiving a mandatory title shot, both camps confirmed during a media conference call Tuesday.
“We wanted it to be, but it just didn't work out,” explained Larry Army Jr, Rodriguez’ manager. “I think part of the problem was Adonis Stevenson and Jesus Gonzalez (who fight on Feb. 18 for the IBF #2 spot). We would have loved it. Donovan George’s team would have loved it, I’m sure. They had a title eliminator with Librado Andrade, but it just wasn’t in the cards unfortunately.”
Instead, they simply fight for pride, in the chief support to Sergio Martinez’ lineal middleweight title defense against Matthew Macklin at Madison Square Garden’s The Theatre in New York City.
Speculation surrounded the fight, since both fighters are ranked in the Top 5 of the IBF super middleweight rankings. However, the upcoming bout between Stevenson and Gonzalez had already received sanctioning before this particular bout was finalized less than two weeks ago.
Rodriguez and George are both rated higher in the IBF, but removing sanctioning status from an already approved bout would’ve led to more trouble than it’s worth.
There also remains unfinished business between George (22-1-1, 19KO) and Librado Andrade, who were scheduled to fight in a title fight eliminator last December in Mexico. The bout was scrapped hours before the opening bell when George’s handlers protested over the ring size, which was five feet smaller than the contractually agreed upon 20’x20’ ring.
The IBF ordered negotiations to resume in order to reschedule the fight, but George’s handlers opted to head in a different direction. The Chicagoland fighter was suggested as a possible opponent for Andy Lee, who was originally slotted in the evening’s co-feature.
Lee was instead removed from the show in favor of pursuing a title fight with Felix Sturm, which led to George being offered the opportunity to face Rodriguez (20-0, 14KO), who has begun to creep towards consensus Top 10 super middleweight status.
It stands to reason that the winner of this bout would be in line to fight in a sanctioned eliminator against whoever comes out on top of the aforementioned Feb. 18 bout between Stevenson and Gonzalez, which takes place in Stevenson’s homeland of Canada.
Until then, they’ll just have to fight for the pure love of the game, which of course has led to both fighters making their respective HBO debuts.
“This is my big opportunity,” acknowledges George. “I think you only get one in life and this is it for me. I'm sure we both want the same thing. We're both trying to be world champions, to become an HBO fighter and make millions of dollars and take care of our families. At the end of the day, may the best man win.”
Rodriguez shares his opponent’s sentiments, indicative of the mutual respect existing between the two.
“Being on HBO is a huge opportunity. Being at Madison Square Garden, which is about four hours from where I live, so I'm going to have a lot of fans there. It's a great opportunity, so it's almost just as good as winning a world title.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]