Rodriguez fighting mad going into Alvarez fight
Delvin Rodriguez's knockout loss to journeyman Jesse Feliciano set his career back significantly. Photo / Steve Samoyedny-fightwireimages.com
You’ll have to excuse Delvin Rodriguez if he’s not Mr. Positive.
The lanky Dominican-born welterweight from Danbury, Conn., believes in neither the system nor good fortune after some of the challenges he’s had to deal with in his 10-year professional career.
There was the surprising knockout loss to journeyman Jesse Feliciano in 2007, which knocked his career off track. There was the near-tragic fight against Oscar Diaz last July, in which Diaz slipped into a coma from which he emerged two months later. And there was the draw with Issac Hlatshwayo in a title eliminator in November, another frustrating step backward.
It all might be more than he could handle if he didn’t believe in one thing – himself.
“No matter what, I’m still prepared for whatever comes,” said Rodriguez, who faces once-beaten Shamone Alvarez in Uncasville, Conn., on Friday on ESPN2.
Rodriguez (23-2-2, 14 knockouts) was on a roll when he ran into Feliciano on Rodriguez’s own turf, in Mashantucket, Conn. He was 20-1-1 and had won 10 in a row, which brought a title shot within sight.
And he was outboxing Feliciano handily. Then things went wrong. Feliciano, unleashing a series of rights, put a stunned Rodriguez down three times before stopping him the eighth round.
Rodriguez said he changed his routine after the loss, building more muscle through weight training and changing his diet. However, the damage was done.
“He was definitely a hot young prospect,” said Kevin Rooney Jr., publicist for Rodriguez’s promoter Star Boxing. “It looked like the road was clear for him to a get a title shot, to get into the upper echelon of the welterweight division.
“Then he had the mishap with Feliciano. It set him back two years in his career.”
The Diaz fight was a different type of setback.
Diaz, fighting in front of his hometown fans in San Antonio, is an aggressive, forward-moving fighter. And that’s how it was against Rodriguez – Diaz moving forward into an array of hard, accurate punches.
After the 10th round, his eyes were almost swollen shut and he’d taken bad beating. Suddenly, it became clear he was experiencing pain in his head, the fight was stopped and Diaz collapsed. He was discharged from the hospital only last month.
Rodriguez said he got through it by talking with those closest to him.
“It was hard,” Rodriguez said. “You never, ever believe something like that is going to happen. It was really difficult. I worried about how he was doing and how his family was doing.
“And it was hard to get information about him; his family didn’t want to give it out. That made it harder. It’s something that has always been in my mind.”
Naturally, Rodriguez was relieved to hear that Diaz emerged from the coma and ultimately was moved from the hospital to a rehab center.
“It was great news. Yes, a weight off my shoulders,” he said.
Rodriguez fought Hlatshwayo in Gauteng, South Africa, Hlatshwayo’s home country.
The conditions there were subpar, he said. For example, he said officials promised to provide sparring partners but did so only for one day. That’s not how one prepares for an important fight.
Still, he feels strongly that he outboxed Hlatshwayo – rated No. 10 by THE RING – in a competitive fight, landing the cleaner and harder punches. He even put Hlatshwayo down in the ninth round.
In the end, he had to settle for a draw. He knew it would be difficult to win a decision in hostile territory but was disappointed nonetheless.
“I believe I won the fight. Everyone saw it,” he said.
Now, even the fight with Alvarez (20-1, 11 KOs) has turned out to be disappointing even before it happens.
Rodriguez was supposed to fight Hlatshwayo in a rematch to determine the No. 1 challenger to IBF titleholder Joshua Clottey but Hlatshwayo didn't want the fight.
Instead, the Nos. 1 and 2 spots are empty he's ranked No. 4. So in the end, he and No. 15 Alvarez are fighting for the No. 2 spot with no guarantees of a title shot.
Once again, Rodriguez is frustrated but he remains hungry. And he'd better be: If he loses, he could end up back where he was after the Feliciano fight.
“A lot of things are out of my hands,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve been treated fairly. It’s to a point where I just want to get into the ring and beat someone up so people can finally see I have what it takes to be on top.”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]