Photo by Ed Diller — WORCESTER, Mass. (February 15, 2013) – Undefeated, United States Boxing Association (USBA) super middleweight champion Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez (22-0, 15 KOs) is following the path to Monte Carlo, set more than 40 years ago by another Massachusetts boxer, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.
Rodriguez faces the stiffest test of his professional boxing career on March 30, against unbeaten 2008 Argentina Olympian Ezequiel “El Olimpico” Maderna (19-0, 13 KOs), in the opening round of “Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super 4” at Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco.
Rodriguez vs. Maderna is half of a historic four-man tournament, also matching two-time, two division world champion Zsolt Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs) vs. Denis Grachev (12-1-1, 8 KOs) in a light heavyweight bout. The championship final of the “Super Four” will feature the winners of the two aforementioned fights at a catch-weight of 171 ½ lbs., worth $1,000,000 (60-40 split) to the champion, on July 13 in Monaco.
The Dominican Republic-born Rodriguez has a lot in common with Hagler than their respective journeys to Monaco. Both relocated to Massachusetts; Rodriguez in Worcester, New Jersey-born Hagler in Brockton. In 2005, Rodriguez captured the middleweight title at the 2005 USA Boxing National Championships, the first Bay State amateur boxer to accomplish that feat since Hagler in 1973.
Six long years into his professional boxing career, future Hall of Famer Hagler (45-2-1 at that time) was the most avoided middleweight in the world, forced to travel to Monte Carlo in 1979 to fight Norberto Rufino Cabrera, who failed to answer the bell for the eighth round, before finally earning his first world title fight. He fought Vito Antuofermo to a controversial draw but, four fights later, Hagler knocked out Alan Minter capture the World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA) titles.
Five years into his pro career, Rodriguez has been unable to get any of the contemporary world super middleweight champions in the ring, despite his lofty ratings at No. 3 in the WBC, WBA and International Boxing Federation (IBF), as well as No. 12 by the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and No. 10 by The Ring Magazine.
“Marvin Hagler has been in the back of my mind since I won The Nationals in 2005 and became the first Massachusetts fighter since him to do that,” Rodriguez said from his Houston training camp. “It was an honor for me to meet him a few years later in Brockton at an amateur tournament. He was such a great fighter and fought in such a great era, including one against another of my all-time favorite fighters, Roberto Duran. To be mentioned, never mind compared to a fighter like him, who accomplished so much in boxing, makes me feel good about myself.
“I certainly understand that boxing is much different today and boxers don’t fight nearly as often, but my promoter (Lou DiBella) and manager (Larry Army) have done a good job positioning me. I’m going to Monaco to fight a great opponent and I am proud to have been selected as one of the four fighters in this tournament. I think it’s a good move for my career. I plan on going there to win the tournament, come back home with a bigger name, and fight one of the champions for the world title.”
Edwin Rodriguez (R) hammers Donovan George
(Photo by Ed Diller)
Maderna, a 2008 Argentina Olympian, is continuing the rich tradition of Argentinean boxing, starting with Luis Angel Firpo, continued by Carlos Monzon, and carried on today by world champions Sergio Martinez, Lucas Matthysse, Omar Narvaez and Juan Reveco.
Ranked No. 5 by the WBO and No. 13 by the IBF, Maderna will be fighting outside of his native Argentina for the first time as a professional. He has reunited with his first amateur coach, Alberto Zacarias, the son of legendary Argentinean trainer Santos Zacarias, who trained world champions Jua Cogi and Sergio Palma.
Army believes the potential reward associated with “La Bomba” participating in the “Super Four” far outweighs the risk of losing or waiting around for a world title shot. “The decision to have Edwin fight in this tournament was a no-brainer,” Army explained. “He’s fighting an undefeated Olympian and then, if Edwin wins he either fights a two-time world champion of an extremely tough Russian fighter who gave Lucian Bute all he could handle. We believe this tournament will give Edwin’s career the boost he needs for him to get a world championship fight. Right now, unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of options for a world title shot. This tournament is the next best thing for Edwin. We’re all looking forward to Edwin putting on a great performance in Monte Carlo.”
Follow Edwin Rodriguez on Twitter @labombaboxing.