For as long as he can remember, Delvin Rodriguez has had one thing and one thing only on his mind, becoming the welterweight champion of the world. On August 1st the IBF #2 rated and current USBA welterweight champion Rodriguez (24-2-2, 14KO) will finally get that opportunity when he takes on IBF #3, Isaac Hlatswhayo (28-1-1, 10KO) for the IBF Vacant Welterweight championship at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Uncasville, CT. The bout will be a rematch of their highly entertaining draw that took place this past November in Hlatshwayo’s home country of South Africa.
Saying the road towards the championship hasn’t been easy for Rodriguez, would be an absolute understatement. The 29-year-old Rodriguez has been through it all during his ten year professional career. From nasty splits with managers and promoters, to being on the wrong end of hometown decisions, and not to forget Rodriguez bitter sweet victory over Oscar Diaz in July of 2008 that left Diaz in a coma for nine months. It almost seems that any aspect of adversity a boxer could be faced with, Rodriguez has gone through it.
“Delvin has been through so much during his career, that’s why we really want to see him bring home that belt on August 1st. If anyone deserves to be a world champion, it’s Delvin Rodriguez,” stated Delvin’s promoter, Joe DeGuardia CEO of Star Boxing.
While some fighters might have wilted or given up after facing the adversity and challenges Rodriguez has been up against, Rodriguez hasn’t.
“I use it as motivation,” stated Rodriguez. “That is why I know I am hungrier then any of the other top guys or champions out there. “Everything I have gotten in my life I have had to work for. I have had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get to where I am now.”
Those obstacles Rodriguez refers to began when he was just a young boy, living in the Dominican Republic. When he was just four years old his parents left him with other members of their family to go to American to try to find work. It wasn’t until six years later Delvin was reunited with his parents in Danbury, CT.
In Danbury is where Rodriguez first took notice to the sport of boxing. Rodriguez began boxing at the local PAL gym in Danbury under the guidance of Mike Salazar. When he was just 18-years-old Rodriguez decided to enter into the professional paid ranks. But unlike the Oscar De La Hoya’s and Floyd Mayweathers of the sport, Rodriguez was not offered huge promotional or TV contracts. If Rodriguez was going to make a name for himself in the sport he was going to have to earn it.
Rodriguez began his career 11-1, 6KO before meeting renowned boxing manager Stan Hoffman in 2004. The two hit it off immediately and Hoffman soon took Rodriguez under his wing.
In their first fight together Rodriguez was matched up against the then highly touted undefeated Allan Coyners (8-0, 6KO) on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights. Many picked the hard punching Conyers to win going in, but Rodriguez had other plans.
Midway through the fight a picture perfect left hook sent Conyers through the ropes face first onto the floor below. Somehow he was able to get back into the ring and continue fighting but from then on it was all Rodriguez as he cruised to a dominate six round decision victory.
In May of 2006 Rodriguez captured the USBA welterweight championship with a third round annihilation of Luis Hernandez. The bout was shown live on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights”. Rodriguez dropped Hernandez twice in the second, and once more in the third before the referee called a halt to the contest.
It seemed that finally Rodriguez was beginning to get the recognition he so rightfully deserved.
Then in March of 2007 Rodriguez put his USBA championship on the line against the always dangerous Jesse Feliciano. Rodriguez was cruising along, pitching a near shut out, until Rodriguez says he made a mistake that he will never make again, he lost his focus.
That loss of focus lead to Rodriguez getting caught with a shot that he shouldn’t have, and ultimately being stopped in the eighth round. While it was certainly a tough pill to swallow, Rodriguez says that the loss was more than anything a learning experience, and something that has made him a much better fighter.
“The fight against Jesse taught me a lot. It showed me that if you lose your focus for even one split second inside that ring, bad things can happen,” said Rodriguez. “Sure I wish I could go back and change the outcome of that fight, who wouldn’t? But if that had never happened to me, I don’t think I would be the fighter that I am now. It was a lesson well learned, unfortunately for me, I had to learn it the hard way. One thing is for certain though, I can promise that something like that will never happen again, not to me at least.”
Since that loss, Rodriguez has done more then just rebound, he has been on a tear. Rodriguez has won four of his last five fights, including two by way of knockout with the only blemish being a majority draw to the aforementioned Isaac Hlatshwayo. It must be noted too, that the competition Rodriguez has faced recently, has been anything but soft. His last five opponents have had a combined record of 106-6-2. That is an astonishing winning percentage of 93%, and something that Rodriguez has come to embrace at this stage of his career.
“If I am going to be the best, I am going to have to beat the best. At this stage of my career every fight I am going to have is going to be tough. I know though that as long as I keep training hard, and keep preparing myself the way I have been, that there is no one who can beat me.”
“I have been through an awful lot in my life and my career, and through it all I have had one dream and one goal and that is to become the welterweight champion of the world. Come August 1st, that dream becomes a reality.”
Photo’s by Marty Rosengarten