“I want to be able to make a statement my next fight to get a guy like Kelly Pavlik, or Arthur Abraham, or one of those big names” – Edwin Rodriguez
Exclusive Interview by Geoffrey Ciani – I was recently afforded the opportunity to speak with undefeated super middleweight contender Edwin Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs) who is preparing to square off against fellow undefeated fighter Jason Escalara (13-0-1, 12 KOs) on September 29 in a bout that will be televised by HBO. Rodriguez spoke about his upcoming fight and shared his views on his opponent. He also provided opinions on a variety of topics, including the chemistry he shares with head trainer Ronnie Shields, Andre Ward’s impressive victory against Chad Dawson last weekend, his idea on what it would take to beat someone of Ward’s caliber, and more! Here is a complete transcript from that interview.
GEOFFREY CIANI: Hello boxing fans. This is Geoffrey Ciani from East Side Boxing and I’m here with super middleweight contender Edwin Rodriguez. How’s everything going, Edwin?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Everything is great. I’m here in Houston, Texas with Ronnie Shields having a great training camp.
CIANI: Great! Now you have a big fight coming up September 29 against Jason Escalara. You said the training camp is going great. So you’re confident in your preparations for this fight thus far?
RODRIGUEZ: Yes sir, extremely confident. Me and Ronnie had a really good training camp where we were able to sit down and learn a few things, and just get a really good game plan for this next fight. We’ve had really good sparring partners. I’ve been working with Cornelius White, who’s top ten in the world at 175, and Don Mouton and me did ten rounds on Tuesday, and I feel great.
CIANI: Now when you look at Escalara, your opponent, what do you think of him as a boxer?
RODRIGUEZ: I think he’s one dimensional, a strong fighter, comes forward. He’s undefeated, he’s strong minded, and I think he’s a very good prospect coming up.
CIANI: Now how do you feel about having the opportunity to have your bout broadcast as the main event on HBO following a fight they just had this past weekend, the big fight between Andre Ward and Chad Dawson?
RODRIGUEZ: It’s definitely a lot of pressure. Andre Ward put on a great performance against Chad Dawson, arguably the best light heavyweight right now. So yeah, it puts on a lot of pressure, but we as fighters we perform well under pressure. I’m ready to take on the young prospect coming up. I’m ready to beat him and make a statement.
CIANI: Sticking with the Ward fight for a moment here, Edwin. Were you surprised by how dominant Andre was in that fight with Chad, which was viewed by a lot of people as a 50-50 type fight going into it?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah! I was surprised. Actually I was really surprised, not just that Andre Ward beat him but how he beat him. He broke him down and Chad Dawson looked like a broken man in the ring. I’ve sparred with Chad Dawson before and I know he’s a good fighter. He didn’t look like he was at his best, but Andre Ward is just one of those fighters that doesn’t allow his opponent to be at their best. I was really surprised to see that.
CIANI: You said Dawson didn’t look at his best and a lot of fans are talking. What are your views on the fact that Chad had to come down to 168 and do you think that he may have been a little weight drained coming into this one?
RODRIGUEZ: I mean Chad Dawson hasn’t fought at 168 for six years and a half. You know he was confident about being able to make 168. It was his mistake. He was the one that opened up his mouth and wanted to fight at 168. He said he was going to be able to make it comfortable. So Andre Ward did what he had to do. Chad Dawson put himself in a bad position by saying that he would be able to come down to 168, which he was 168. But I’m not sure if that affected him or Andre Ward was just that good that night.
CIANI: When you look at Andre Ward, as a fighter in his division, what do you think are the keys to beating someone like him who’s been on such a hot run of late?
RODRIGUEZ: I think that Chad Dawson gave him a little bit too much respect. You know Andre Ward was the champ at 168 and he had to go in there mentally and physically prepared. I think that Chad Dawson by having an already made up excuse for fighting at 168, you know if he loses he really didn’t have much to lose because he was still the champ at 175. So he already had that in his head, so he didn’t have everything on the line. If the fight would have happened at 175 he would have had no excuse, so I think they probably should have fought at 175 so Andre Ward makes that statement. But me as a fighter coming up, I’m just trying to keep improving for when my time to fight a fighter like Andre Ward comes I’ll be ready not just to compete, not just to fight him, but to beat him! I think the key is, you know, make it a fight. I know he’s a very good fighter who is able to adapt, but I don’t think anybody has really went in there with the mentality to win and test him.
CIANI: Back to your career, you had your last fight in March against Donovan George. How would you evaluate your performance in that one, Edwin?
RODRIGUEZ: I think that I did well. I don’t think that I was at my best. I don’t think I was perfect that night, and what I mean by “perfect” is as is good as I can be as a fighter. I don’t think I was perfect, and that’s one of the things I’m trying to put together with this training camp. I feel like nobody knew that I had defense, and I proved that in the Donovan George fight. At the same time I wasn’t able to put my whole arsenal together. If I put everything I’m just looking to get off my punches a little bit more, still stay defensive, but at the same time bring back what made me, me! And that’s throwing a lot of punches and hurting everyone to the body.
CIANI: What do you think your keys to victory are to be successful against Escalara?
RODRIGUEZ: I think listening to Ronnie Shields. This guy has been in boxing for a long time. He was a former fighter, a great trainer, and is one of the few teachers left in boxing. I think my key is to listen to Ronnie in between rounds, and keep adapting, keep giving Escalara different stuff keeping him on his toes, and like I said, just looking to Ronnie and do what he tells me.
CIANI: How comfortable do you feel with the chemistry that you and Ronnie have as a trainer and a fighter?
RODRIGUEZ: I feel extremely confident. You know as a fighter you’re going in there and this guy is trying to take your head off. Now you go back to the corner and you have to relax, and being able to trust someone like Ronnie because he’s been there before. He was a fighter himself, so he knows what I’m going through at certain times. So being able to come back to Ronnie and listening to what he has to say, how he sees the fight, what I have to do to be able to do better and win rounds and win the fight. It’s a relief knowing that I have somebody like Ronnie in my corner that’s been in there before, that’s not just talking just to talk. It’s a big advantage for me.
CIANI: Edwin, there are a lot of big names in the 168 pound weight class. A lot of this comes from the attention that came with the Super Six tournament. How important is it for you to make a big statement against Escalara to possibly get an opportunity against one of these bigger names sometime in the near future?
RODRIGUEZ: It’s very important. You know I’m with a big network, not just to get attention from all the other guys in the super middleweight division, like you said it’s a division that’s stacked with talent. But to get back on HBO, you know I got to impress my fans. I’m fighting close to home. So I got to impress my fans, impress the HBO director, and impress my promoter so I can let everybody know that I’m ready to take on anybody in the world.
CIANI: Sticking with some of the bigger names that are in the division, I’m curious, when Carl Froch defeated Lucian Bute in the manner that he did a few months back, did that surprise you with the way Froch handled Bute so easily?
RODRIGUEZ: You know it surprised me a little bit, but at the same time I’ve been in training camp with Carl Froch. I know how big of a puncher he is. I know how tough mentally and physically he is as a fighter. To be honest with you, Bute’s been hurt before by Librado Andrade. So I knew that was the type of power Carl Froch brings. I knew that he had the power to knock Bute out. I just didn’t think he was going to do it so early and so decisively.
CIANI: Now I know you don’t want to get ahead of yourself here and that you have a big fight coming up in a couple of weeks. But if everything goes to plan and you perform at the level you’re expecting to perform at and make the type of statement you’re hoping to make, where would you like to go? Is there a specific opponent out there that you might ideally like to get in the ring with after that?
RODRIGUEZ: Like you said before this division is stacked with talent. There are so many big names and so many former world titlists. There’s so many of them that it doesn’t really matter who it is. I just want to be able to fight one of the top guys, but first I got to take care of business now. I want to be able to make a statement my next fight to get a guy like Kelly Pavlik, or Arthur Abraham, or one of those big names. I feel like I’m ready to take on any of those guys.
CIANI: What type of fight do you think fans can expect between you and Escalara on the 29th?
RODRIGUEZ: You know the only fight that can be expected is that this guy is a brawler. He’s a young hungry prospect. He’s undefeated. He has got good power and both hands and he comes to fight. He’s young and a bit reckless. I’ll be right there right in front of him and give him a few angles. It has to be a war. There’s no other way to it. That’s the style he fights. I’m able to do different things in the ring but as we all know I love to brawl, so sooner or later it will be a brawl.
CIANI: Edwin, do you have an official prediction for your upcoming fight?
RODRIGUEZ: I will win, and I will look my type of perfect. I will be perfect on September 29th and what I mean by “perfect”, the best I can be.
CIANI: For my final question for you, is there anything else you would like to say to all the boxing fans out there and all the readers of East Side Boxing?
RODRIGUEZ: I just want to say that I’m ready to perform at my best September 29, look impressive, and I’ll be ready to take on any of the top ten guys in my division. The time is now, and I’m ready! Now it’s the showdown September 29.
CIANI: Great! Edwin, I want to thank you for your time. It was an absolute pleasure getting the chance to speak to you here once again. I wish you the best of luck in your upcoming fight and the best of luck in your career going forward.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you very much, buddy. It’s a pleasure always coming to East Side Boxing and talking to you guys. I want to thank all of my fans and continue to follow my career. Follow me @labombaboxing on Twitter. Thank you very much, buddy!
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