HBO Boxing After Dark Preview: Rodriguez vs. Escalera, Del Valle vs. Darchinyan


By: William Holmes

On Saturday night HBO will broadcast a card from their boxing after dark series which tends to feature fighters who have the ability to break out as a major star in the near future.

It was supposed to be a triple-header on Saturday, but a rib injury to Zsolt Erdei forced a cancellation of the third bout. Instead fight fans are treated to a junior featherweight bout between Luis Orlando Del Valle and Vic Darchinyan and a super middleweight bout between Edwin Rodriguez and Jason Escalera.

The following is a preview of the two bouts on Saturday.

Luis Orlando Del Valle (16-0) vs. Vic Darchinyan (37-5); Junior Featherweight

Del Valle has just about accomplished everything as an amateur except for compete in the Olympics. He’s former national Golden Gloves Champion, a USA World Cup team member, and was previously ranked #1 in the USA as an amateur. Del Valle has made two appearances on Showtime’s ShoBox series and is a fast rising Puerto Rican prospect that boxing enthusiasts are keeping an eye on.

Del Valle has spent his entire career fighting as either a featherweight or a junior featherweight. He has eleven victories by way of KO or TKO, but only two of his last fights did not go to a decision. He had an impressive victory over Christopher Martin in April of this year, and he made his nationally televised debut with a victory over Dat Nguyen in 2011. Vic Darchinyan will be his biggest name opponent to date.

Vic Darchinyan used to be a seemingly unstoppable champion in the flyweight division, until he suffered his first defeat at the hands of the Filipino buzzsaw Nonito Donaire. Since that loss his aura of invincibility disappeared and he has tried several times, unsuccessfully, to regain his past glory in higher weight classes.

Darchinyan competed in the 2000 Olympics, but that seems like ages ago for the 36-year-old professional. This southpaw does have solid power, as 27 of his victories have come by KO or TKO, but most of this stoppage victories came at the lighter weight classes. He has not had a KO or TKO victory since 2009, and that was as a super flyweight.

Darchinyan is also riding a two fight losing streak, as he lost to Shinsuke Yamanaka and Anselmo Moreno in the bantamweight division. His last victory was over Evans Mbamba in front of a friendly crowd in Yerevan, Armenia. His last major victory was a technical decision over Yonnhy Perez in 2011.

Darchinyan used to excite the crowds, but this will be his first fight ever as a junior featherweight at the ripe old boxing age of 36. His power didn’t follow him as he traveled up in weight. He’s fighting a much younger and bigger foe on Saturday and he’s been on a precipitous down-slide since 2010.

Darchinyan has lost three of his last five fights. After Saturday is over he’ll likely have lost four of his last six. Del Valle should get his first victory over an opponent who has a recognizable name, but it will be against an opponent who is far past his prime and in a weight class that he is not comfortable in.

Edwin Rodriguez (21-0) vs. Jason Escalera (13-0-1); Super Middleweight

The main event of the night features two undefeated contenders in the talent packed super middleweight division.

This isn’t Edwin Rodriguez’s first time on national television. He previously defeated the one loss Don George on the undercard of Sergio Martinez vs. Matthew Macklin card on HBO. Rodriguez also has a deep amateur background, as he won the USA Boxing Championship in 2005 and the National Golden Gloves in 2006 as a middleweight.

Rodriguez, also known as “La Momba”, is ranked in the top five by both the WBC and the IBF. He has 14 victories by KO or TKO and is just starting to enter his prime. He really didn’t start fighting tough competition until 2010, and has defeated the likes of James McGirt, Aaron Pryor Jr., Will Rosinsky, and Don George. He’s been brought along nicely since his debut and is almost ready to start facing some of the stiffer competition in the super middleweight division.

Jason Escalera is a hard hitter. He has 12 KO or TKO’s out of his 13 victories. His last fight was a draw against one loss Nick Brinson.

Escalera will also have a three-inch reach disadvantage against the longer Rodriguez. Rodriguez will also be by far the toughest competition Escalera has fought to date. He has never gone past eight rounds, and he has never defeated a fighter with more than ten victories.

Escalera will be a good test for Rodriguez, but it’s a test that Rodriguez should pass. He’s probably one of the hardest hitters that Rodriguez has ever faced, and if Rodriguez can show he can take a punch or finish a potentially dangerous opponent his stock will rise. But if Escalera can catch Rodriguez early like he has with so many of his other opponents, he can pull off the upset.

Regardless, Rodriguez should pull off the decision victory and get ready to fight tougher competition in the near future.

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