By Thomas Gerbasi
If Edwin Rodriguez wins his Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super 4 final bout against Denis Grachev this Saturday, don’t be surprised if he yells “I’m going to Disney World” into the cameras.
No, it’s not a big endorsement deal or something of that ilk, just a reminder to his family that despite not getting a trip to Monaco, they are getting a trip to the land of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
“My daughter will remind me of that when I get home,” said Rodriguez who welcomed a son to the family with wife Stephanie a little over two months ago. It’s the couple’s third child, and for the Worcester, Massachusetts super middleweight, the idea of picking up an extra $200,000 with a win over Grachev is a more than welcome perk of competing in the tournament.
“It’s great,” said Rodriguez of the final bout, which will give $600,000 to the winner and $400,000 to the loser. “I’m getting the financial support to give my family a better life, and at the same time I’m putting myself in a position after this fight where I can get a world championship fight, which is a big goal in my life.”
Ranked in the top five of all the major sanctioning bodies, the 23-0 (15 KOs) Rodriguez admits that after seeing a logjam at the top of the 168-pound weight class around the time of current WBA / IBF champion Carl Froch’s win over Lucian Bute in May of last year, the four man Super Four tournament came at precisely the right time to keep him from getting too antsy for his shot at the belt.
“If I didn’t get the opportunity to be in such a major tournament like the Monte Carlo Super Four I would have been impatient, but getting this opportunity has given me motivation to win this tournament, and I’m hoping to get my title shot after,” he said.
It wasn’t easy getting to the final though, as he got a tougher than expected go from unbeaten and awkward Argentinean Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna, who extended him the ten round distance before Rodriguez took a unanimous decision made closer by two point deductions.
“It was really difficult,” Rodriguez said of the fight. “He wasn’t trying to engage, he was just moving and fighting really defensive, and it got to my head a little bit, I gotta admit. As the fight went on, I started to figure him out a bit more, and I was aggressive minded, but less aggressive because I was too wild at the beginning. I was way too aggressive in the beginning, so I slowed down a little bit, and I felt like the second half of the fight I did a lot better than the first half.”
Grachev’s close split decision win over Zsolt Erdei was definitely the more entertaining of the two semifinal bouts, and with the Russian’s hard-nosed attack and wins over Erdei and previously unbeaten Ismayl Sillakh being his calling cards, Rodriguez knows that he’s in for a fight.
“I’ve been aware of Grachev, and I’ve seen many of his fights before,” he said. “He had actually fought two people from New England that I know, and one of them is a good friend of mine, Vladine Biosse, who he ended up knocking out and giving him his first defeat, so I know a lot about my opponent. I know he’s a strong and determined, and that (extra) $200,000 is going to give him more to fight for, but at the same time it’s giving me more to fight for. I feel like I’m the better fighter, I got more to work with than he does, but I have to acknowledge that he’s got power and I have to be aware of that to get the best results and not allow him to use his strength.”
As for the 171.5 pound catchweight that the bout is being held at, Rodriguez doesn’t believe it will be an issue for either fighter.
“I don’t think it’s gonna matter. I think the weight isn’t going to hurt or help either of us. It’s gonna come down to skills.”
And Rodriguez certainly has them, with wins over James McGirt, Will Rosinsky, Don George, and Jason Escalera all solid notches in his belt. But a big win over Grachev will make a strong statement, and in addition to the extra $200,000 in his bank account, he hopes that it would lead to a clash with newly crowned WBC champion Sakio Bika. But first things first.
“I stay grounded and I know that I have a tough challenge ahead of me,” said the 28-year-old. “I know that none of that stuff will be possible if I don’t get past him. This guy (Grachev) is in front of all my success and possibly a title shot. Knowing that all that is at stake, along with an extra $200,000, it helps me maintain focus and never forget what I’m working for. I gotta get rid of this roadblock.”
Then it’s off to Disney World.