Contrary to popular belief, it’s a great time to be a boxing fan. After three weeks of solid fights, HBO is hoping to ride this momentum with this weekend’s edition of Boxing After Dark. The main event of the night features a pair of undefeated super middleweights as Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs) looks to end the hype behind prospect, Jason “Monstruo” Escalera (13-0-1, 12 KOs). The co-main event of the night has also drawn fans attention as veteran Vic Darchinyan (37-5-1, 27 KOs) looks to get out of his current slump (going 2-3 in his last five) against the up-and-coming, Luis Orlando Del Valle (16-0, 11 KOs).
As expected, most of the media’s interest has been focused on the main event as Rodriguez looks to establish his status as a contender, while Escalera is looking for a performance to silence his detractors. Going into this fight, both fighters have had to endure seemingly constant questioning by boxing professionals and fans alike. Will Edwin Rodriguez ever prove that he has potential to be a truly great fighter? Is Jason Escalera’s knockout power a god given gift, or is it a result of shoddy match-making? Luckily, everyone will get the answers they are looking for as both fighters compete on boxing’s biggest stage.
Edwin Rodriguez has certainly had an interesting career. Up to this point, he has gone from being one of boxing’s hottest prospects; to one of its most overrated, and at this point is thought of as nothing more than a “good” fighter. Most of this criticism has been unjustified considering that he has defeated all of his previous opponents; but has he really done enough in some of those wins?
Rodriguez’ last two outings came against Will Rosinsky (16-2, 9 KOs) and Don George (23-2-1, 20 KOs) in fights that represented not only his biggest step up in talent, but the toughest tests of his career as well. Against Rosinsky, Rodriguez put on a solid performance early. He landed more shots, moved effectively, and was the much busier fighter between the two. Things started to change as the middle rounds approached, and Rosinsky began to feel a second wind. While Rodriguez didn’t do much more than jab and move, Rosinsky suddenly became the aggressor and proceeded to outwork the tiring Rodriguez. In a fight that many ring side observers had scored a draw, Rodriguez walked away with a unanimous decision suggesting that he had won every round of that fight (Judges scores: 100-90, 100-90, 100-90).
Luckily for him, things weren’t as controversial in his next fight with Don George. As many had expected, Rodriguez would go on to earn a competitive unanimous decision against the Illinois native. For many observers, this fight showed that Rodriguez may be more than just a “good” boxer as he was able to overcome some early struggles against the awkward George. Going into this fight with Escalera, Rodriguez is understandably the heavy betting favorite. With his slick footwork and constant jab, all signs point to Rodriguez controlling the fight through all twelve. To avoid being upset, Rodriguez will have to make everything come together as he mixes his jab with constant power shots to overwhelm the seemingly over-confident Escalera. If he fights smart and effective while controlling range, expect Rodriguez to take home a unanimous decision win.
Depending on who you ask, Escalera is either the next star in a talent rich super middleweight division, or an over hyped prospect with a padded record. The one aspect of his record that has come under the most scrutiny is his knockout ratio. Now, there is no doubt that Escalera stopped those foes, but it left people questioning whether the result was due his brutal punching power or the fact that these fights were a complete mismatch. Escalera certainly has a lot to prove going into his HBO debut against Rodriguez, but he has shown flashes of greatness that suggest he may upset “La Bomba”.
In his last two fights, Escalera stopped Marcus Brooks (7-10, 3 KOs) and battled Nick Brinson (10-1-2, 5 KO’s) to a draw. In each fight Escalera has shown to be a hyper aggressive fighter whose main goal is to blitz his opponent into submission. Although it works beautifully against lesser competition, the game plan seems to become less effective with a step up in competition. As an up-and-comer Escalera still has many problems with his technical game. For one, his ring movement is awkward at best as he has a hard time effectively cutting off opponents across the ring. This is where that assaulting power style comes into play. Against Rodriguez, Escalera knows that he will not win a boxing match against the more experienced fighter. With his lack of a jab and exploitable defense, Escalera will have to prove that his knockout power is as legitimate as he says it is. This is a tall order for the young Escalera to fulfill, but one has to commend his determination to beat an opponent that is much more experienced than him. For Escalera to take home a victory, he will have to continue doing what’s gotten him to this point.
Once that opening bell rings he will have to come at Rodriguez immediately as he throws his barrage of power hooks to the head and body. There’s no guarantee this will work, but we’ve all seen stranger things happen in the sport.
At the opening bell, Escalera will come out the aggressor as he attempts to bully Rodriguez to the ropes early. Rodriguez will try keeping him at bay with the jab, but Escalera’s punch out-put will be too much at first. Most of Escalera’s flurry will be blocked by Rodriguez, and the two take the fight back to the middle of the ring. Rodriguez will go back to measuring his distance and unloading a shot against the charging Escalera, but the round will end before much more happens. As rounds two and three approach, Escalera continue in his attempt to stop Rodriguez, but unfortunately he’ll find much less success than he did in the opening round. Rodriguez will continue jabbing Escalera while mixing in power shots. Things won’t look much better for Escalera in the middle rounds as this aggressive style has worked against him with exhaustion inevitably setting in.
Rodriguez will keep doing what he does, jab, move, power shot, and move. This pattern is going to carry into the later rounds, except Escalera will depend more on Hail-Mary power punches, and seemingly constant clinching. Escalera will be losing badly in the point’s game, and will need nothing short of a miracle to stop Rodriguez. Unfortunately, this isn’t a movie. Rodriguez will take the unanimous decision and go home with his perfect record still intact.
Pick: Edwin Rodriguez def. Jason Escalera via Unanimous Decision (UD)
Vic Darchinyan vs. Luis Orlando Del Valle
Del Valle has proved to be a very talented young fighter, but his lack of experience is the biggest concern going into this weekend’s match-up against Vic Darchinyan. Darchinyan has looked “old” in his last few outings, but he’ll be looking to change that against Del Valle. If Del Valle had a little bit more experience against tougher fighters I’d pick him, but unfortunately he hasn’t had the time. Expect the “Raging Bull” to leave with the victory, as he will be too much, too soon for the young Del Valle.
Pick: Vic Darchinyan def. Luis Orlando Del Valle via referee stoppage in the 6th (TKO-6)
Alex Perez vs. Antonin Decarie
This is one of those fights that has potential to be a whole lot of fun as Antonin Decarie takes on one of Lou Dibella’s prized prospects, Alex Perez. Similar to the Darchinyan fight prediction, I have a feeling that experience will be the deciding factor in this match-up, giving Decarie the edge. Unlike the prediction for the Del Valle vs. Darchinyan fight, I do feel like the younger fighter will put up a much more competitive fight. I still feel Decarie is going to earn the win, but this will definitely be one of the fights to keep an eye on.
Pick: Antonin Decarie def. Alex Perez via Majority Decision (MD)