In dismantling the severely over-matched Jason Escalera in eight lopsided rounds at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Connecticut, super-middleweight prospect Edwin Rodriguez did exactly what he was supposed to do on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” card.
Such has been the case for Rodriguez (22-0, 15 KO) throughout a career that has received a solid degree of notoriety and attention due more to his skill and potential than his actual level of opposition.
While building a viable contender and, hopefully, a world champion is a meticulous process, Rodriguez is doing himself a disservice by fighting the likes of Escalera (13-1-1, 12 KO)—an opponent who, despite tremendous heart and courage, had not fought anyone of remote significance.
Rodriguez finds himself lumped in with a cluster of super middleweight contenders who have not quite reached an elite level, yet, perplexingly, refuse to fight each other.
Adonis Stevenson, Sakio Bika, Thomas Oosthuizen and Andre Dirrell are similarly-positioned fighters who could be making compelling and meaningful matchups amongst themselves.
Certain rising prospects with significant managerial and promotional backing are part of a negative epidemic in boxing that strives to protect and preserve glossy records as opposed to making the most competitive fights in the hopes of moving towards a world title opportunity.
Given the corruption of sanctioning bodies, such safety-first maneuvering is possible. Quite frankly, it's hurting the sport.
With promoter Lou DiBella whispering in Rodriguez’s ear, the possibility of moving up to light heavyweight to fight the likes of Jean Pascal was also broached.
That matchup seems somewhat premature considering Rodriguez took a step back in competition in his most recent fight.
Calling out Pavlik certainly makes sense for Rodriguez given Pavlik’s recognition and the fact that “The Ghost” is still on the comeback trail, a fact not lost on Campbell:
“The kind of fight Rodriguez now desires against Pavlik—a name fighter in need of a breakthrough performance of his own—appears to be the perfect litmus test to gauge just how ready Rodriguez is for the next level.”
While it is true that Rodriguez needs a litmus test, the caveat in calling out Pavlik is that Rodriguez was offered a similar test-worthy fight a few months ago.
As one of a slew of fighters that rejected an IBF elimination fight against Adonis Stevenson, Rodriguez helped reinforce the logjam of super middleweight contenders who need each other to make fights that could propel them to the elite level.
Stevenson’s promoters unsuccessfully tried to lure Oosthuizen, James DeGale, Mikkel Kessler, Pavlik and others into the elimination fight, but since it would likely take place in Montreal—Stevenson’s home-base—it ended up being a turn-off.
Not to mention, Stevenson has scored two sickening knockouts since hooking up with Emanuel Steward.
In calling out Pavlik, Rodriguez has set his crosshairs on a fighter who is likely aiming for a title shot because of his economic viability and past championship success.
To fight Rodriguez would be a dangerous step back for Pavlik, given how easily former champions and superstars can wiggle their way into big fights (even after long layoffs or uneven performances).
Rodriguez should buck the supper-middleweight trend and look to fight the likes of Stevenson in what would be a true test and step-up in competition for both men. Logistics of where the fight would be held aside, fighting Stevenson—or even Bika, Oosthuizen or Dirrell—would be a bout worthy of Rodriguez’s talent.
Stevenson and Rodriguez have both fought Aaron Pryor Jr., and after Stevenson’s bout on October 12th, they will both have battled Don George.
Should Stevenson win, a fight against Rodriguez would promise tremendous action. It is time for all these super-middleweight contenders to start fighting each other because the back road routes to a title will eventually be blocked.