Unbeaten prospect Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez represents the future of the super middleweight division. As of October 2012, Rodriguez is currently rated #3 by the WBC, #4 by the IBF, and #8 by the WBA.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Edwin started boxing in 2001 and he developed into one of the top amateurs in the United States, compiling a splendid 84-9 record, including gold-medal performances in the 2005 USA Boxing National Championships and 2006 U.S. National Golden Gloves Tournament. He became the first Massachusetts boxer to win the middleweight title at the Nationals since Marvin Hagler in 1973.
Rather than remaining an amateur to try to qualify for a berth on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team, in 2006, Rodriguez became the father of premature twins, Edwin Jr. and Serena Lynn, which changed his priorities.
“They both weighed a pound and three ounces at birth,’’ Rodriguez said. “The doctor sat us down and told us many times that our son only had a slim chance of (making it). It was tough just like with any other family. Physically, I was there, trying to go to the gym, but mentally, I wasn’t. It was tough having my kids at the hospital for four months and at the same time trying to concentrate on boxing.
“I have a little more to deal with than most parents but we do what we have to do. I know boxing takes a lot of time away from my family but being able to give them a better life balances it out a little. My son got diagnosed with CP—cerebral palsy. But I’m just happy to have him and see him smile every day.’’
As if that wasn’t enough, the twins were also diagnosed with autism shortly before their fourth birthday in 2011.
His pro debut came on January 26, 2008, in Mansfield, Massachusetts, when he stopped Sammy Ortiz in 82 seconds of the opening round.
Edwin fought seven more times in 2008, winning all seven, including a pair of six-round unanimous decisions in impressive performances against Hector Hernandez (10-2-2) and Marcus Upshaw (8-2), who soon after fought a draw against The Ring magazine’s No. 8 middleweight at that time, James McGirt, Jr.
Team Rodriguez felt that it was time for Edwin to take some time off in order to work closely with Peter Manfredo Sr., who had replaced Carlos Garcia as head trainer due to his time restrictions. Edwin got world-class sparring at Manfredo’s Gym in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where he worked with world title challengers Peter Manfredo Jr. and Elvin Ayala, as well as world title contender Jessie Brinkley.
“I had to put in his mind that he needs to stand strong with his head high and to throw body punches by stepping to the side,” Manfredo explained. “He’s not where we want him to be, yet, but he’s improved. I want him thinking that defense is a responsibility in order to last in this game. We’ve worked on him being good defensively and it’s slowly coming around. I became his head trainer to get him to the next level. We’ve reached a happy medium. He’s learning to use range with his long arms. Everything works off the jab and Edwin’s technique is improved to where he’s throwing good jabs and hooking off the jab to the body and head.
“The best thing about him is he’s a real good kid. He’s a clean, hard worker and very respectful. The road is long and there are no guarantees for anybody in this game but, what I really like is his desire to work. He has that long range. He’s strong and has a good chin, too. Edwin’s a quick learner. Like with the jab, he’s learning why to use it – to set up combinations and use his range to keep his opponent off balance. I want his jab to control his opponent, which will make fights a lot easier for him.”
The four months of intensive training immediately paid dividends in Rodriguez’ first fight of 2009, January 17, on the off-televised portion of an HBO card, headlined by the Andre Berto-Luis Collazo WBC welterweight title fight, at Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, in Biloxi, Mississippi. In his first scheduled eight-round bout, Edwin floored Brad “Bad Ass” Austin (8-6, 2 KOs) four times en route to a third-round stoppage, at 1:09 of the frame.
“I was happy with my performance but I feel I could have done better,” Rodriguez commented after the Austin fight. “I hurt him in the first round and felt I should have stopped him then. But I got antsy trying to take him out. I went back to using the short punches that had hurt him. I just got caught up in the moment. I hurt him a few more times and I knew the knockout was coming. I just had to stop looking for it. I made a mistake but learned from it and that’s important. I was really excited to fight after working so hard for four months. All of the hard worked paid-off; I was able to perform the way I’m supposed to.”
Rodriguez headlined his first pro show in Worcester, entitled “Homecoming,” on March 19, and he gave the 1,100 fans—mostly friends, family and fans—exactly what they came to historic Mechanics Hall to watch, stopping 30-fight veteran Patrick Thompson in the second round.
The popular 23-year-old Dominican Republic-born Rodriguez improved his perfect pro record to 10-0 (7 KOs), stopping Thompson (15-14-1, 5 KOs) for only the second time.
“I was a little disappointed,” Rodriguez remarked. “He didn’t last too long. My trainer, Peter Manfredo Sr., told me after the first round that I wasn’t using my jab enough and to throw my right over his jab. I baited him a little, acting like there was something there for him, and when he went to take it, I came with my right over his jab. I knew he was going down; I hit him right on the spot.
“It was tough fighting at home for the first time in front of my family, friends and fans, plus my new promoter. I wanted to look around at everyone but I couldn’t. I had to do what I had to do and did just that. It was hard keeping focused, not like my last fight in Mississippi, when I didn’t know anybody. Great athletes perform under presser and that’s what I did.”
Rodriguez added three more wins to his ledger in the latter part of 2009, stopping Angel Gonzalez in the third round on August 13, in Rochester, NY, winning an eight-round unanimous decision over veteran Darnell Boone on October 13, in Lincoln, RI, and knocking out Brian Norman in five on November 19, back up in Rochester, NY.
On March 19, 2010, Rodriguez made his national television debut on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” against veteran George Armenta. With one single shot to the body, Rodriguez put the boxing world on notice. Rodriguez stopped Armenta with a blow to the liver just 47 seconds into the bout.
On April 30, 2010, Rodriguez made his SHOWTIME debut against 17-2 Kevin Engel. The two waged war for six rounds until Rodriguez went back to his signature shot, the hook the liver, which dropped Engel for the count.
Rodriguez returned to Mechanics Hall in Worcester, on June 24, 2010, for Broadway Boxing: Homecoming II. Rodriguez thrilled his hometown crowd with a fifth-round stoppage over Ibahiem King, flooring him twice in the process.
Manfredo was happy to see his pupil, Rodriguez, improving with each outing. “Edwin performed at a higher level than I even expected,” he noted. “I had an idea from training that he’d stop him, but he came out throwing a chopping right. I told him to throw it straight off the jab and he hit him with a perfect right. He’s sitting down more on his punches, generating more power and leverage, and improving every fight. Edwin’s turning into something special. The big thing is he really listens. He really performed above and beyond my expectations.”
Rodriguez was back on SHOWTIME in his next bout, against James McGirt Jr., on November 5, at Scheels Arena, in Fargo, North Dakoka. “La Bomba” came out aggressive, often pressuring McGirt to the ropes and banging the body, with the occasional left hook upstairs. In the later rounds, Rodriguez had quelled McGirt’s offense and at the 1:57 mark of round nine, the referee halted the action for a TKO stoppage. The victory earned Rodriguez his first title, as the vacant WBC USNBC super middleweight belt was on the line.
Edwin began 2011 at Mallory Square, in Key West, FL, against Aaron Pryor Jr., on January 14, televised by ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.” In a competitive and entertaining affair, Rodriguez was able to get the unanimous decision victory, despite suffering a dislocated left shoulder early in the second round while throwing a punch. Dealing with the pain from then on, Rodriguez gutted out a gritty performance, landing the more effective punches overall. Scores, all in Edwin’s favor, read 98-91, 97-92, and 96-93.
Taking time off to heal from the shoulder injury, Rodriguez also made changes to his team, replacing head trainer Peter Manfredo Sr. with Ronnie Shields in May.
Manager Larry Army commented on the change. “After Edwin’s third pro fight we switched trainers and went with Peter Manfredo Sr., but after the McGirt and Pryor fights, Edwin and I talked about things that hadn’t been fixed—balance, wide punching and fighting out of control, he said. “So, we decided to make a change and sent Edwin to Houston to start working with Ronnie Shields.”
In his first fight back following the injury and change of trainers, Rodriguez was once again at Mechanics Hall, facing Iraq War veteran, Chris Traietti, on August 20. After a steady body attack for two rounds, Traietti retired in his corner, awarding Rodriguez the TKO victory.
On October 21, Rodriguez stepped into the ring against the 2005 US Amateur Light Heavyweight champion, and 14-0 as a professional, Will Rosinsky, in a battle of undefeated prospects. At Foxwoods Resort and Casino, in Mashantucket, CT, live on SHOWTIME, Rodriguez and Rosinsky fought a very competitive battle, featuring many exciting changes. Rodriguez worked hard to keep the pressuring Rosinsky at bay with his stiff jab to set up combinations. Showing a granite chin, Rosinsky kept moving forward no matter what Edwin threw at him. But, in the end, Rodriguez was simply the busier man, winning a unanimous decision with scores of 100-90 across the board.
In his next bout, Rodriguez fought at the legendary Madison Square Garden for the first time, as the co-feature to Sergio Martinez’s middleweight title defense against Matthew Macklin, on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2012. Taking on the spirited half Greek, half Irish Don George, who entered the ring at 22-1-1, Rodriguez demonstrated his excellent boxing ability rather than getting into unnecessary exchanges with the power puncher. After 10 rounds, the scorecards read 99-91, 97-93, and 96-94, all in favor of Rodriguez. With the victory, Rodriguez picked up the USBA super middleweight belt.
On September 29, 2012, Rodriguez took on undefeated, heavy-handed knockout artist Jason Escalera, 13-0-1 (12 KOs), in his first headlining bout on HBO. In defense of his USBA title, at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, in Mashantucket, CT, Edwin was an offensive machine, unloading his arsenal on the game but outgunned Escalera for eight rounds. With 12 seconds remaining in the eighth frame, referee Steve Smoger mercifully ended the contest after a series of shots from Edwin busted open Escalera’s right ear, causing it to gush blood.
Rodriguez is promoted by DiBella Entertainment, managed by Larry Army, and trained by Ronnie Shields.