By Sergio L. Martinez
On September 29, 2012, the MGM Grand at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut will host a triple-header HBO Boxing After Dark fight card. The ten round main event features undefeated Dominican-American 168-pound contender Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez defending his USBA super middleweight title against New Jersey knockout artist Jason “Monstruo” Escalera. Escalera boasts a record of 13-0-1 with twelve wins coming by way of knockout.
For Rodriguez, the fight date represents much more than simply another step towards his dream of challenging for a title and becoming a world champion. Six years ago on the same date, his wife gave birth to premature twins; a son and a daughter. Both children have varying conditions due to the prematurity. It is hard for any father to leave his children for extended periods of time; for Rodriguez, who travels to training camps in Texas, it is a source of constant motivation and it keeps him focused.
Speaking from his camp in Houston, Rodriguez told Boxing Insider, “I didn’t come to the U.S. until I was thirteen years old. My father lived here for many years and, although I knew my father, I didn’t really spend time with him until I came here because he was here all the time working. I understood that he was doing that because he was trying to get a better life for his family.”
“I keep in contact with my family through the internet with face time and on the phone too,” Rodriguez continued.
“My son is nonverbal so it’s a difficult to communicate with him. He is doing better and has come a long way. He is nonverbal due to prematurity, having cerebral palsy and mild autism. I try to communicate and explain what I’m doing. I understood why my father did it, but it’s different when you have a special needs child. I wonder if he understands what I do and why I do it. I know my daughter understands because I can communicate with her. I work so hard for my family because I want to provide the best for them.”
The twenty-seven-year old Rodriguez managed to solider on, gaining strength from his children’s situation. More importantly, it grounded him and is an important part of his success. During the heat of battle, should Rodriguez lose focus, his children’s situation quickly brings him back to reality.
“I always remember when I was fighting Kevin Engel and I was winning the fight easily in the first two rounds,” Rodriguez continues.
“I got a little careless and tried to take him out in the third round. He was a big puncher and caught me with a big left hook right between my guard and he stunned me. The only thing that came to my mind at that moment was ‘how am I going to take care of my kids? I gotta put it together.’ That moment gave me that extra push I needed because I just felt that I just didn’t have a choice because of my kids. I got to keep going.”
Rodriguez has kept it going and his progress has been steady over the past four years as DiBella Entertainment, along with manager Larry Army Jr., have carefully matched the Worcester, Massachusetts native–stepping him up a little at a time. The results have been positive as Rodriguez, who is now trained by veteran corner man Ronnie Shields, has looked more polished each time out. The hard work particularly showed in his last outing when Rodriguez completely out-boxed Chicago banger and fellow 168-pound contender Donovan George.
“Having Ronnie (Shields) in my corner has made a huge difference,” Rodriguez explains. “I’ve been working with him for a year now and I’ve improved all around as a fighter. In the George fight, I showed that I have defense now. George was a big puncher but most of his shots landed on my arms.
“I’m also now working with Danny Arnold who is my performance trainer. Along with my promoter (Lou) DiBella and my manager Larry Army, I now feel that I have a complete team and am ready to get to the top.”
Rodriguez must remain perfect and is in a high-risk low reward situation in facing Jason Escalera. Escalera has no upside for Rodriguez as an easy win for the Dominica-American is expected; a loss would severely cripple his march towards a title, since Escalera has not faced and/or beaten anyone of any consequence. This makes him, and his high knockout rate, a dangerous, unknown commodity.
Rodriguez realizes this and understands that he needs to be at his best.
“I just want to really put it all together for this fight,” Rodriguez says.
“Both my offense and defense has to come together. Before I was an offensive machine but now I just want to combine everything I’ve learned. He (Escalera) seems to have power in both hands but strong fighters sometimes don’t work as hard because a lot of their fights end early. Escalera is young and only has thirteen fights so I think he is going to be reckless in there so I’ll take advantage of that.”
Should all go well for Rodriguez, the world level is the next logical step. As with any young fighter, no one can be sure if the experience gained and time devoted to learning will be enough when the big fight comes along. Rodriguez feels that he has paid his dues and is ready for the top tier of the sport. He offers this:
“I’m ready. I have worked with a lot of world champions in sparing. I know it’s a whole different world but it’s brought me a lot of confidence. I’ve worked with Chad Dawson, Carl Froch, Daniel Geale and Jean Pascal. I understand that it’s a different world with smaller gloves and things but I’m ready. I just have to show my manager, promoter and the world on September 29th that I’m ready for anyone in the super middleweight division. It’s a hot division with a lot of talent but I’m ready to fit in. Andre Ward is a great champion but I’m not here to be number two to anybody, so I want to prove myself.”
In closing, “La Bomba” had this message, “On September 29, I’m going to put it all together and I’m going to show the fans, boxing people, my manager and my promoter and I’m ready. I’m going to send a message. I want to impress HBO so that they can have me back and I want to thank them for having me on.
“I also want to thank my manager and my promoter for making it all happen. Also, I want the fans to follow me on Labomboxing on twitter. I’m working extremely hard as I want to give everyone a great performance and want everyone wanting more.”