Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez (26-1, 17 KOs) hungers to prove he's the best light heavyweight in the world.
Rodriguez, 30, takes another step towards that career goal on May 23, in Boston at the Agganis Arena when he faces undefeated Texan Craig Baker, 16-0, 12 KO's.
“I feel 175 is the weight I belong at,” said Rodriguez of the 10-round co-feature booked on the PBC on NBC undercard. “I'm fast and strong and I feel I'm the best light heavyweight. I just need an opportunity to prove it.”
Rodriguez is now 2-0 at 175 with recent wins against Derrick Findley and Azea Augustama. He wants to be the champion. “This is one of the steps to do that,” he says.
The hard punching bomber from Worcester, Massachusetts took the same audacious approach seven pounds ago in the 168 lb. super middleweight division. An attempt was made by Rodriguez to prove his skills against the second best boxer in the world, Andre Ward. That starvation gamble didn't exactly work out the way Rodriguez and family hoped it would—but it did pay off. After going 24-0 with 16 KOs to start his career, Rodriguez sought to prove he was the best super middleweight in the world by challenging divisional kingpin Ward. Rodriguez's genuine belief in himself translated to an admirable willingness to fight the undisputed world champion of his division in 2013. Seasoned ringside observers said it was too soon, that Rodriguez was biting off more than he could chew. Many scoffed when Rodriguez failed to make the divisional weight limit a day before his title shot against Ward in Ontario, California at the Citizens Business Bank Arena.
The HBO televised bout went on as scheduled but only after some eleventh hour contractual revisions were made to accommodate Rodriguez's growing frame. Rodriguez was also fined a hefty twenty percent of his first million-dollar payday. Point-blank promoter Lou DiBella couldn't contain his disappointment and he spoke out critically against his own fighter. The end result was a disaster of portly proportions but “La Bomba” got paid to be brave. Ward hasn't fought since, mired in promotional difficulties, and is slated to glove up June 20.
After the ample melodrama subsided, Ward won a suddenly non-title fight by landslide decision. Despite being badly outclassed, Rodriguez showed flashes of his dangerous power, an in-your-face tenacity, and the kind of world-class chin required for success in a larger division ruled by power punching champions like Adonis “Superman” Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev.
“I'm hungry to get back at that elite level,” says Rodriguez of his desire to challenge himself again as he did against Ward. “I'm setting myself up and working hard to look impressive against Baker. He defeated Umberto Savigne, who had over 400 amateur fights and was a big prospect in the pros. Baker is undefeated. I have to take that away from him. You can't take a guy like him lightly.”
Rodriquez is a chess player. “It's all about looking good and winning,” he says. “Baker is just in my way right now.”
If he keeps checkmating opponents, Rodriguez should have no trouble getting into position for the world title fight he wants next. You see, both he and Stevenson are managed and advised by boxing's controversial Wizard of Oz, Al Haymon. It is Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner that flies over the promotion Rodriguez will perform under on May 23 in Boston. Haymon can make the fight happen. Understandably, Rodriguez is fully focused on knocking out Baker but what “La Bomba” really wants is to fight Stevenson for the WBC light heavyweight crown.
“That's the goal,” Rodriguez told me. “Adonis Stevenson has proven he's the world champion and that's who I want in the future.” Never-satisfied boxing fans want Stevenson to fight Sergey “The Krusher” Kovalev right now (or preferably yesterday) but with that light heavyweight title unification superfight in a current state of irreconcilable dissolution, they'll begrudgingly settle for “Superman” against anyone on this planet with enough kryptonite in their fists to seriously challenge him. “I want to fight the best so I can prove I'm the best,” says “La Bomba” Rodriguez, now just a couple moves away from again attacking the King in a boxing ring.