Mark E. Ortega

Rodriguez eager to earn another title shot

 

Delvin Rodriguez (right) connects with a right to the head of Pawel Wolak during their anticipated rematch, clearly won by Rodriguez in December 2011

 

Former junior middleweight title challenger Delvin Rodriguez meets Freddy Hernandez in the main event of this week’s Friday Night Fights ESPN2 broadcast from the Mohegun Sun Casino in Uncastville, Conn.

At this point in the 33-year-old veteran’s career, every bout is high stakes, so what better place to fight than at a casino just an hour and a half from his home in Danbury, Conn.?

Over the course of his career, Rodriguez is 4-1 at the popular fight venue, with his only loss being a controversial split-decision verdict against Isaac Hlatshwayo in their 2009 rematch. That bout was Rodriguez’s first title opportunity, having rode a five bout unbeaten streak at 147 pounds into that fight. That stretch included a draw with Hlatshwayo in his native South Africa in 2008, shifting things to Rodriguez’s home field for the rematch.

Rodriguez has developed a solid following whenever he fights at Mohegun Sun according to his manager, AJ Galante.

“Every local fight, I personally rent out a coach bus, free of charge, for our people in Danbury,” said Galante. “This is the most tickets I’ve personally sold since becoming Rodriguez’s manager.”

The Mohegun Sun also played host to one of the best action fights in recent memory, Micky Ward’s thrilling first encounter with Arturo Gatti in 2002.

Like Gatti, Rodriguez is a bit of a limited fighter, but one that possesses a ton of heart and determination. That isn’t to say that Rodriguez isn’t skilled. As Gatti could, Rodriguez can box a bit. But more often than not, he prefers to engage in battles in the trench and likes an opponent that comes forward.

Like Gatti, Rodriguez has participated in a Fight of the Year, his July 2011 Friday Night Fights headliner against Pawel Wolak at New York’s Roseland Ballroom was eerily similar to the bout that played out between Gatti and Ward.

Though their rematch later that year didn’t meet the unreal expectations set forth by their first encounter, the clear victory for Rodriguez established him as a bona fide contender in the 154-pound division.

It ultimately earned him a shot at Austin Trout in a Showtime Championship Boxing televised bout last June that saw Rodriguez turn in a disappointing performance.

“One of my worse performances ever,” Rodriguez told RingTV.com on Wednesday. “I made the biggest mistake in my most important fight. Waiting for the right moment to attack, I just needed to take it to him, make it rough fight.”

Rodriguez indeed let his more ring savvy opponent dictate the fight. Rodriguez got a good payday for the fight but he is determined to earn another opportunity, and this time, take advantage.

“Every fight is important for me to win from here on out,” said Rodriguez. “I have to win impressively in order to get a fight for the title next year.”

Hernandez is in a similar situation to Rodriguez. He too, is looking for another major shot. Unfortunately for Hernandez, his first taste lasted just over two minutes, as Andre Berto stopped him in November 2010 in the first round in their HBO-televised bout.

Hernandez rebounded with a surprising victory over former titleholder Luis Collazo the following year, but has lost his last two—albeit against quality opposition in Erislandy Lara and Demetrius Andrade in distance bouts.

Rodriguez is 4-4-2 in his last 10, though that record is quite deceiving. You can make a case in each one of those losses and draws that Rodriguez deserved the nod, but given that he traveled into enemy territory in so many cases, it is easy to see why his record is what it is.

“Today, records really don’t mean much,” opined Rodriguez. “It is all about given the fans good, exciting fights and I think I have been doing that for a long time, so I’m sure I would get my shot again.”

Like everyone else currently campaigning at 154 pounds, Rodriguez has his sights set on one opponent in particular.

“My dream fight would be to fight Canelo [Saul Alvarez],” said Rodriguez. “But this is the best time to go for a title, it is a hot division and I’m going to work hard to get to that position by next year.”

Rodriguez is coming off a Friday Night Fights televised win over unbeaten but unheralded George Tahdooahnippah in a fight where Rodriguez was just too many levels better than his opponent.

Unlike many others in the sport, Rodriguez wasn’t brought along in a slow manner. He’s constantly been in against tough opponents, but he feels that means he’s all the more better for it, if and when another opportunity arises.

“I think experience means a lot in the sport of boxing,” said Rodriguez. “I’ve been through it all, and I could say that I have learned the hard way, so every time I get into the ring, I want to hurt my opponent.”

Hernandez is not a top contender, but he is usually pretty durable.

An impressive performance from Rodriguez could put him in the mix for another title shot. A regional IBF title is on the line Friday, meaning a good ranking within the organization could position him for a shot against perhaps the winner of Ishe Smith’s title defense against Carlos Molina, which takes place in July.

Expect Rodriguez to make it an entertaining fight on Friday with Hernandez. He knows that’s his best chance of getting another shot on a major network, and really, it has become second nature to him to slug it out.

 

 

Photos / Al Bello-Getty Images

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