On September 29th super middleweight Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez will take on Jason Escalera in a 10 round fight as part of an HBO tripleheader, live from Mashantucket, Connecticut. The card is being promoted by Lou DiBella – who has a deal with HBO to put on a specific amount of cards featuring prospects that otherwise wouldn’t be in the position to be on the big stage of HBO – which also features a light heavyweight bout between Zsolt Erdei and Isaac Chilemba as well as a junior featherweight bout between Luis “Orlandito” Del Valle and Vic Darchinyan (both fights scheduled for 10 rounds).
Rodriguez (21-0) is coming off of a 10 round unanimous decision win over Don George in a fight that took place back in March of this year. This fight with Escalera is yet another opportunity for Rodriguez to showcase his skills in hopes of cementing himself as a legitimate threat in the stacked 168lb weight class.
While Rodriguez is no stranger to HBO, it will be the first time he main-events a fight on the network, making this fight the biggest of his career when considering the circumstances. Rodriguez has been tagged as one of the premier prospects in the 168lb division, but a win could go a long way in shedding the prospect label and converting himself into a solidified contender.
Rodriguez is currently in Houston working with his trainer Ronnie Shields getting prepared for September 29th.
“Training camp is going really well, [my strength and conditioning coach] Danny Arnold is making me faster and stronger. I’ve been working with Ronnie Shields on my boxing, just trying to improve on the little things, keeping up with my defense and increase my power,” Rodriguez said in a phone interview with Thaboxingvoice.com.
Rodriguez’s opponent Escalera is widely unknown, although he does possess an undefeated record with 12 KO’s in 13 professional fights. Although much isn’t known about Escalera, Rodriguez is doing his homework.
“I know he’s tough and undefeated, he’s from New Jersey which means he’s a very proud fighter and fights to the finish. I’m not at all [worried about his power], I fought Don George who was a good puncher and other guys who could punch and I’m not really worried too much about what he can do. I’m just going to go in there and make him worry about what I can do.”
My assumption is Escalera is the kind of guy who’s dangerous in that his potential for upset doesn’t match the merit gained from a win. Rodriguez has fought some high-risk, low-reward guys in the past.
“Honestly, I didn’t pick these opponents. [Escalera] is undefeated but I know that a lot of people don’t really know much about him, but I’m just going to go in there and do my job. I’m going to train, not just for this fight, but to keep improving and getting better so that when the day comes for me to fight a world champion I’ll be ready, and not just to fight but to win.”
The one thing I got out of the conversation with Rodriguez is that he has a great head on his shoulders. He knows that title fights with “big named” fighters are something to be earned and it is admirable that there are still fighters like Rodriguez who believe in earning their way.
“As a fighter we have to pay our dues before we start calling out the big names, we have to prove ourselves. I’d look like a clown if I started calling out Andre Ward before I pay my dues. I’m just doing what my promoter and manager think is the right way to take my career. I think when I beat Jason Escalera I’ll be ready to fight a top 10 guy.”
With everyone lining up to call out Mayweather and Pacquiao, it’s refreshing to come across a talent like Rodriguez who understands the nature of the business. However, he does possess the kind of ability that could earn him a future shot at one of the division’s top fighters. If Rodriguez were to get a big fight should he come out victorious against Escalera, the question is would he be willing to make showdowns at light heavyweight, or does he prefer to get his shot at his own division, super middleweight.
“I can definitely [move up and down from 168lbs to 175lbs]. I’m 6’1” and I’m big and strong enough to not just compete but win at 175lbs and if an opportunity comes up to fight for a title at 175 then I’d take it in a heartbeat,” Rodriguez said.
“I’m making 168lbs comfortable so I’m going to stay there as long as I can, but if anything comes up at 175lbs then I’ll be more than happy to take it.”
The biggest fight happening in Rodriguez’s division is taking place between super middleweight titlist Andre Ward and light heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson, a fight that will take place in Ward’s division of 168. Rodriguez had some interesting thoughts on that fight, as well as some personal perspective.
“I’ve been in training camp with Chad Dawson and he’s really talented, he’s got so much skill. I didn’t really like him coming down to 168lbs, even though he says he’ll [make the weight with no problem], he hasn’t fought at 168lbs in such a long time and Andre Ward was an Olympic Gold Medalist at 178lbs and I don’t think he would have had a problem going to 175lbs.”
“I think what’s going to end up happening is Ward is going to probably win the fight at 168 and they’ll do the rematch at 175. It’s going to be a really great fight, it won’t be boring and everyone is going to enjoy it. It’s like when Floyd Mayweather fights, when you see [Ward and Dawson] you know you’ll be seeing the highest level possible,” Rodriguez said.
I was already a fan of Rodriguez the fighter based on what I’ve seen from his in-ring ability, but what made me a fan of Rodriguez the man was his take on the issue of Performance Enhancing Drugs in boxing. This past year boxing has seen a rise in notable fighters testing positive for PEDs, Edwin is confident on his own status and he wants to make sure he leaves no doubts when it comes to him being a clean fighter. He is actually in the process of becoming the next fighter to sign up for year-round drug testing with VADA, following in the footsteps of Nonito Donaire.
“I think we need to do something about [the drug use in boxing]. I think what Nonito Donaire is doing is something every boxer should follow- with the whole random testing. I’ve been talking with my manager about it and we’re probably going to make it happen very soon. There is a lot of people getting hurt and it sucks to know that I did everything I could cleanly and then there is a chance my opponent might be using something. I know I’m clean, so I’ll be one of the athletes doing [year-round random testing].”
I commend Edwin Rodriguez for his own personal convictions. With this step into random testing, Rodriguez will not only be a good role model for kids in all sports, but for the professionals in boxing as well. I hope this becomes the trend, and if it does then we will always remember the pioneers that started it.