By Cris Cella
On this week’s edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, former junior middleweight champion Delvin Rodriguez (27-6-3, 15 KO will meet Freddy “El Riel” Hernandez (30-4, 20 KO) in a 10-round contest as both fighters are looking to crack the top 10 of the division and land bigger fights in pursuit of battling again for a world title.
Over the past two years Rodriguez has really stepped up his competition, battling Pawel Nowak to a draw, and then defeating him in the rematch, which lined him up for the opportunity to fight Austin Trout for his title. In the matchup for Trout’s WBA world light middleweight belt, Rodriguez was edged for 12 rounds and lost the unanimous decision.
In his return to the ring since the loss he put on an impressive showing against George Tahdooahnippah—which aired on FNF—and stopped him in the sixth round to hand the rising prospect the first loss of his career. It was Rodriguez’s first stoppage since 2008, and he will be looking to continue his winning ways Friday night against Hernandez if he wants to work his way back to title contention.
For Hernandez, Friday night will be all about going out and doing whatever it takes to emerge from the ring with the ‘W’. The Mexican fighter had put together a nice winning streak since 2005 and subsequently earned a shot at the WBC welterweight title, then held by Andre Berto. In the championship fight Hernandez failed to show up and was finished off in the first round. Relentless in getting back to the grind, he returned to the ring nearly a year later and won a unanimous decision over Luis Collazo. But then in his last two outings he again came up short, though he did so against top competition in Erislandy Lara and Demetrius Andrade. Hernandez has shown his inability to defeat strong opponents, so being on the grand stage of FNF this Friday will present him the chance to win a big fight and get himself back on track.
Hernandez’s advisor Nigel Burns shared the following of his fighter, “He (Hernandez) needs to get a ‘W’ now to get some more opportunities, and he’s fighting a guy who’s going to give him that opportunity. That’s not a knock on Rodriguez, but Rodriguez is more of a fighter than a boxer. I think it should be a good fight. Rodriguez is a good fighter, and has fought some good people, and I expect him to actually stand in the pocket and trade with us.”
Stylistically Rodriguez and Hernandez should make for a good matchup and a fan-friendly fight as both fighters don’t shy away from going to war when needed, and considering the stakes of this fight, they will both be battling as if there is a world championship belt on the line.
As both fighters are in their thirties, time is of the essence. The time is now if either boxer wants to make a successful run at a title eliminator of contention fight in 2013. The division is stacked with a ton of talent, and more than a handful of up-and-coming prospects looking to establish themselves.
The co-feature of the night is a 10-round bout with undefeated junior welterweight Issouf “Volcano” Kinda (16-0, 6 KO) putting his record on the line against Chris “Hurricane” Howard (15-2-1, 7 KO) in the battle of natural disasters.
Leading up to the fights, ESPN2 will air the best KOs of Friday Night Fights at 9 p.m. and Mike Tyson’s Greatest Hits at 9:30, with the live boxing beginning at 10.