Edwin Rodriguez faces hammer-fisted Donovan George this Saturday night on the HBO stage, and for the battle of his life he'll be inspired by his twin children, who have already fought theirs.
NEW YORK -- Super middleweight boxer-puncher Edwin Rodriguez will be driven by a much deeper cause than just the glory of boxing when he enters the ring on Saturday to face hard-hitting Donovan George.
Although the 26-year-old Rodriguez (20-0, 14 knockouts), of Worcester, Mass., could be in the most difficult fight of his career against the Chicago-based George (22-1, 19 KOs), it pales in comparison to the harrowing near-death of his twin children, Serena and Edwin Jr.
Having earned a unanimous decision over Will Rosinsky in his last fight in October, Rodriguez will meet George on HBO as part of the televised undercard of Sergio Martinez vs. Matthew Macklin.
Rodriguez shared about the journey endured by his children and his wife, Stephanie, as well as his desire to rise into the division's upper eschelon with those such as Andre Ward, Lucian Bute and Carl Froch.
RingTV.com: Can you tell me about your children?
Edwin Rodriguez: I have twins, a boy and a girl. They were about four months premature. They were -- wow -- yeah, I don't really like to talk about it. They were 23 weeks and five days old and weighed one pound and three ounces when they were born.
My daughter dropped to under a pound while they were still in the hospital. They were in the hospital for 120 days, fighting for their lives, day after day. There was not a dull moment in our lives in 2006 as a result of our kids being born prematurely. My wife was a college graduate from Holy Cross.
She wasn't a drinker and she wasn't a smoker, and none of that stuff. It was just one of those things where it just happened. The doctors couldn't explain to us why it was happening and what was going on. But we had to live life one day at a time.
RingTV.com: How difficult was that?
ER: It was tough to see your kids go through their daily lives, every single day, without you knowing what the next day is going to bring.
At one point, the doctor told us one day about my son, who was the sicker of the twins, that basically, if he survived, that it would be a miracle. But now, he's five years old. They were just fighting for their lives every single day.
RingTV.com: When were you finally able to bring them home?
ER: When they were 120 days old, we were able to bring them home, but they were still on oxygen. We were taking them places with their oxygen tanks.
With my son, we had a machine that would start beeping because his lungs weren't strong enough. Both of them had to be on oxygen while they were sleeping for about a year after they got home, or maybe two.
RingTV.com: How are things with them today?
ER: Well, I'm just looking back and thinking about how far we have come and how much they have accomplished. My son, he has cerebral palsy, and he wasn't supposed to be able to walk very well, but now he's walking. He's running around.
He has started to say little words and little sentences and words like that. My daughter, she's catching up with all of the kids their age. They're in kindergarten.
RingTV.com: How is it being away from the family while training?
ER: It's extremely tough, being away in Houston, Tex., training with Ronnie Shields. My kids are sort of wild, so it's a lot of responsibility for my wife. It's a lot for her to take, but she's doing a great job, and she always has.
She's a really good advocate for me. That's something that makes it a little easier for me to go away, but it's still tough, because my daughter blames every little bad behavior on daddy not being home.
So it's tough. But it's one of those things that you have to make sacrifices. Hopefully, down the road, we'll be able to to come up with a situation where the family stays together.
RingTV.com: How much of your intestinal fortitude comes from having watched the fights of your children?
ER: A lot of if comes from that. I do love fighting, and I'm a fighter who has fought with my brother since I was young. But a lot of my strength comes from knowing that my kids have been fighting for their lives since they were born.
They didn't ask to be brought into what they were brought into, they're just playing with the cards that they were dealt. We're just trying to make the best out of it that we can. But there is a lot of motivation for me.
Knowing that I have to provide for them. Boxing is what I do. I didn't go to college. So boxing is what I have. I'm excited that I'm on the big stage, which is Madison Square Garden. I'm able to be in position to try to give my kids a better living.
This is my American dream, to be on HBO. This is the beginning of my American dream. I'm taking full advantage of it. This is my chance and my opportunity. A lot of people don't get the opportunity that I'm getting with this fight.
RingTV.com: How far away are you from that type of fight, where you're in there with the Andre Wards and the Lucian Butes and the Carl Frochs of the world?
ER: I think that I'm ready now. I think that I'm ready today. Of course, on March 17, I have to prove that. I have to show that to the rest of the world. I have to show the rest of the super middleweights that I'm ready to challenge any of the top 10 guys.
But I've got to beat that next tough guy in front of me, and that's Donovan George, and I have to take full advantage of it.
I know that it's a tough division, so I'm not going to sit here and call anybody out, because there are so many good fighters and so many big names out there.
There are some big fights that could be made after I perform on Saturday, and I'm shooting for greatness. Sooner or later, I'm going to have to face the best fighters, and I'm ready now. I feel as if I'm close to the top now, but I have to prove it on Saturday.
RingTV.com: Do you feel like George that Saturday night's fight can be like the Orlando Salido-Juan Manuel Lopez II fight?
ER: I did see that fight, and I'm sorry to let Donovan George know, but there's no doubt that he thinks he's going to be the Salido in this fight.
I'm pretty sure he's planning to be that. I'm faster way faster than that, I've got better reflexes, and I'm just as strong as Donovan, if not stronger.
You're going to find out on Saturday night. You know, it's on. I'm confident and I'm ready to go, I'm fired up, and I wish that the fight was tonight.
Photo by Emily Harney, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org