Twin siblings Serena and Edwin Rodriguez Jr. will turn 6 years old on Sept. 29, the same day that their father, super middleweight boxer-puncher, Edwin Rodriguez, steps into the ring for an HBO-televised clash of unbeatens with hard-hitting Jason Escalera from the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn.
Although Escalera (13-0-1, 12 knockouts), of Hoboken, N.J., poses a real threat to Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs), of Worchester, Mass., the challenge pales when compared to the near-death of the twins endured by Rodriguez and his wife, Stephanie.
“I’m excited to get back on HBO on Sept. 29, which is actually the day that my twins were born,” said Rodriguez, 27, during a national conference call on Thursday. “That was a good day and a bad day for me at the same time, because my twins were born premature with 23 weeks and ffive days.”
Rodriguez detailed the children’s early lives during an interview with RingTV.com in March, a few days prior to his unanimous decision over Donovan George on the under card of an 11th-round knockout by RING middleweight champion Sergio Martinez over Matthew Macklin.
“They were about four months premature…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,” said Rodriguez.
“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….They were just fighting for their lives every single day.”
When the twins were 120 days old, the Rodriguez’s were able to bring their children 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,” said Rodriguez.
“Both of them had to be on oxygen while they were sleeping for about a year after they got home, or maybe two. I’m just looking back and thinking about how far we have come and how much they have accomplished.”
The same could be said of their father, who is nicknamed “La Bomba.” Rodriguez turned in an educated boxing performance against George (22-2, 19 KOs) in what was anticipated to be a slugfest against a man whose ring monicker is “The Bomb.”
“Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to handle it. I’m a professional, so I’m going to try to focus 100 percent on my fight,” said Rodriguez. “But you know, feelings will come and go. I’m 100 percent focused on Sept. 29, and we’ll handle everything else after that.”
Rodriguez has gained so much of his fighting strength from his children, for whom he is motivated to provide.
“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,” said Rodriguez.
“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.”
The children were ringside for just one of Rodriguez’s fights, said Stepanie Rodriguez.
“When the twins were three years old, they attended at fight at Twin Rivers. They had an afternoon fight,” said Stephanie Rodriguez. “That is the first and only time they went for a fight. At this point, we only feel comfortable with them watching Edwin on TV.”
Even now, Edwin Jr., or “Buddy,”, and Serena, or “Rena Boo,” watch their “Dada” on television, although, Stephanie Rodriguez says she still does not believe that her children have a complete grasp of what their father does.
“If you ask Serena what daddy does, she will say boxing. Edwin Jr. calls it bobo. They both love watching their daddy on TV, and will watch the entire match,” said Stephanie Rodriguez.
“I don’t think they understand it, especially Edwin Jr., since they don’t seem to be concerned if Edwin gets hit. But I know they would worry if they understood.”
Trained by Ronnie Shields, Rodriguez said that he “learned that I actually do have a defense” in the fight with George.
“I just needed to put it together,” said Rodriguez. “Now, I have to prove that I can mix it up and maintain my defense as well.”
Rodriguez’s victory over George followed a near-shutout if not competitive unanimous decision over Will Rosinsky in October of last year.
“I don’t think that Escalera has fought anybody who is at this level. I do feel like he has power, but it’s more from pressure than just from a one-punch knockout,” said Rodriguez.
“I’m ready, though. Donovan George was one of the biggest punchers that I’ve fought. He has power in both hands, so I’m ready to fight anybody in the world.”
In the wake of their losses, Rosinsky and George went on to great opportunities.
Rosinsky won two straight before giving former undisputed middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik all that he could handle during a close but unanimous decision loss on July 7.
After watching Pavlik-Rosinsky, Rodriguez said, by comparison, that he thought he was “right there” with Pavlik.
“I think I’m ready for anybody in the top 10. I feel like Kelly Pavlik is a good fighter and a strong fighter. He has power. But I feel like I’m right there. I’m ready for any of the top 10 guys, but I’m extremely focused on Sept. 29,” said Rodriguez
“Because I know that Jason Escalera is a powerful guy with a strong will to win and a big heart. He’s undefeated. I’m looking forward to proving myself. I’m ready not just for a Kelly Pavlik, but for anybody in the world.”
Meanwhile, George is scheduled to face hard-hitting southpaw knockout artist Adonis “Superman” Stevenson in an IBF eliminator on the Aug. 11 undercard of a main event featuring IBF light heavyweight beltholder Tavoris Cloud and former RING and WBC titleholder Jean Pascal.
“I would love to get together to make a fight between Edwin and Kelly Pavlik if Edwin can get beyond Escalera,” Rodriguez’s promoter, Lou DiBella. “But again, this is a hard fight, and the kind of fight where Edwin can’t look past his opponent.”
Rodriguez spent time last month at the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit, where he, Stevenson, George and others sparred alongside southpaw middleweight contender, Andy Lee, prior to Lee’s seventh-round knockout loss to WBC beltholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on June 16.
“It was a great atmosphere. That was a great boxing gym with a ton history. It was a good feeling being there with [trainer Manny Steward] being there. [IBF beltholder Cornelius Bundrage] was there, I sparred with [heavyweights] Jonathon Banks and Eddie Chambers,” said Rodriguez.
“I went a couple of rounds with Chambers just to see how fast he was. He was really, really fast for a heavyweight. I sparred with just about everybody because I wanted to get that experience. It was a great place to be at a great experience. Now I’m here in Houston, Tex., getting ready for Sept. 29.”
Rodriguez-Escalera is part of a triple-header that will also include undefeated former two-division light heavyweight titleholder Zsolt Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs) and ex-beltholder Vic Darchinyan (37-5-1, 27 KOs), with the event being billed “Road To Glory.”
Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs) meets Isaac Chilemba (19-1, 9 KOs), who is coming off a unanimous decision over contender Edison Miranda in February, while Darchinyan will try to end a two-bout losing streak opposite featherweight Luis Orlando Del Valle (16-0, 11 KOs), of Puerto Rico.
If Del Valle is successful, DiBella said he would like to match him with ex-beltholder Wifredo Vazquez Jr., who is promoted by Top Rank. Vazquez Jr. must first get beyond an Aug. 4 bout against ex-beltholder Rafael Marquez.
“I would like to make an all-Puerto Rican matchup with Orlandito Del Valle against Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. if both fighters can get beyond their next fights,” said DiBella. “That fight could sell out the Theatre at Madison Square Garden.”
Photos courtesy of Jamie Herrick
Photo by Emily Harney, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org