When Delvin Rodriguez bested Pawel Wolak on HBO pay-per-view in December, it was supposed to be the last agonizing step on his uphill climb through the world of boxing.
On a night that featured fellow junior middleweights Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto, Rodriguez arguably stole the show and proved that he could challenge for a belt, or at least fight a big name like those in the main event.
Instead, he found himself sitting at home for four months in Danbury, Conn., with an awful sense of deja vu.
“I was like, man, I can’t believe this is happening again. I just had two great fights, the first fight Fight of the Year, and the second one another good fight, and then I have to wait for—well, for nothing, basically,” said Rodriguez, 32.
After breaking through on the big stage, the Dominican-born veteran was in the same place that he was before drawing with Wolak in their first encounter, a bout that many media outlets deemed the best of 2011. He and his management were on the hunt for a significant match-up at 154 pounds, but couldn’t quite get to the final negotiating table.
“Everything was up in the air, we didn’t know what was going to happen. First I was gonna fight (James) Kirkland, then I was gonna fight some other guy, and everything just kept falling down,” Rodriguez told RingTV.com. “I was very disappointed, and it got to a point where I was getting desperate.”
When Kirkland opted to face Carlos Molina instead, Rodriguez’s promoter really got desperate, suggesting to Rodriguez and manager AJ Galante that he could take a tune-up fight in the interim, while he worked on a bigger deal.
“Why would we want to take a tune-up fight? Was I going to fight on ESPN again? I felt like I was going backwards. I wanted to fight somebody either on my level or higher than me,” said Rodriguez, who has been one of the most frequent headliners of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights.
Thankfully, his only ESPN appearances in the near future will be in his role as an analyst for Spanish broadcasts.
Not long after his conversation with DeGuardia and Galante, the two of them did find a better offer—a Showtime-televised bout on June 2 against WBA World junior middleweight titleholder Austin Trout (24-0, 14 KOs), a man similarly known for being a likeable yet overlooked fighter throughout his career.
Rodriguez (26-5-3, 14 knockouts) has had one previous title opportunity, a debatable split-decision loss to Isaac Hlatshwayo in 2009 for the IBF welterweight strap. As a blue collar fighter without a powerhouse promotional outfit behind him, he hasn’t been issued the kinds of chances to win a belt fighters of or below his calibre may have, so the news came as a relief.
“When you train because you have a fight in mind, as opposed to when you have a fight scheduled, it’s a whole different state of mind, a whole different level of excitement,” said Rodriguez.
Some of that excitement is very practical. His hometown of Danbury doesn’t exactly have a Wild Card Boxing Club downtown. In fact, all it has is a community center with what’s described by locals as “a bootleg little place” for children to fool around in the ring, but nothing suitable for world-class training. So, when not in a full-fledged training camp, Rodriguez does his strength and conditioning with coach Matt Patren at home.
Now, he’s training deep in the mountains in New York State with a sense that his climb may finally be over soon.
“(Trout is) hungry for that recognition, and I’m hungry for the title,” said Rodriguez. “And that’s the edge that I have. After going through so much in my career, one bad decision after the other, and management problems, promoter problems — I’ve finally got the opportunity.”
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman
photo: Chris Farina