Rodriguez looking to prove he's real deal

By Matthew Aguilar


Rodriguez looking to prove he's real deal

The best thing that could happen to undefeated heavyweight David Rodriguez might have happened.  It was announced this week that WBO champ Sultan Ibragimov will meet WBA titlist Rusian Chagaev in an October unification showdown – putting to rest the rumors of a possible Ibragimov-Evander Holyfield pairing.

Now that Holyfield’s dance card is open, Rodriguez could be in line for a fight with the “Real Deal” - provided he beats undefeated Rick Dyer, and Holyfield gets past Lou Savarese - Saturday in “Nino’s” hometown of El Paso, Texas.

For Rodriguez, who is 25-0 (24 knockouts), it would be the opportunity of a lifetime.     

“It’s always a possibility,” Rodriguez, 29, said of a fight with the 44-year-old Holyfield. “It could lead to that, because I don’t believe he will retire anytime soon. We would take the fight, most definitely. I don’t know how he feels about fighting me right off the bat. But that’s fine with us.”

It would be a huge fight for the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Rodriguez, who has displayed good hand speed for a big man – not to mention a powerful punch – in a career that started in 1999.

Throw in the fact that he’s intelligent, handsome and Hispanic, and manager Bob Spagnola may be sitting on a gold mine.

Remember Gerry Cooney? The Irishman hardly faced a recognizable name before annihilating an aged Ken Norton in 1981.

From there, “Gentleman Gerry,” 25-0 with 22 knockouts, zoomed right to a financial bonanza, challenging WBC heavyweight champ Larry Holmes in one of the most ballyhooed fights in boxing history.

Cooney’s take: $10 million. Same as Holmes. (Cooney eventually gave Holmes a good fight, before falling in the 13th round, on June 11, 1982).

It may be too early to compare Rodriguez to Cooney. But Spagnola, who guided bantamweight Orlando Canizales to a hall-of-fame career in the early 1990s - has been meticulous in his handling of the powerful heavyweight.

Like Cooney’s braintrust, Mike Jones and Dennis Rappaport, Spagnola may be angling for that one big shot.

If it happens, Nino is ready for it.

“I’d like to fight anybody in the top 40 right now,” Rodriguez said. “We would love a Mike Tyson fight. We’d take that fight immediately. But this is boxing, and you don’t know what might materialize. Next week, everything could change. There are a lot of names floating around. I just want to stay healthy. As long as I’m healthy, I’m active, and staying fresh.”

Injuries have dogged Rodriguez for much of his eight-year career. For a while, he figured his career was just snake-bitten.

Now, though, he’s healthy again. He emerged from a seven-month layoff to knock out Stacy Goodson in one round back in March. And he stopped trialhorse Marcus Rhode in three last May.

He’s ready to take the next step. But he knows a fight with Holyfield – a four-time heavyweight champion and a living legend - is impossible without an impressive victory over Dyer, 13-0 (13 KOs).

“He’s strong and big, weighs about 270 pounds; he’s 6-10, and he’s a southpaw,” Rodriguez said of his opponent Saturday at the Don Haskins Center. “He’ll do everything in reverse. So we’ve been bringing in southpaws who are as big as he is – Savarese, Roderick Willis. Willis is very talented, and he boxes southpaw. All I can do is work on my gameplan and fight the way I fight everyone else. I don’t think Rick Dyer has the ability to put up with my speed and power. I’m not saying I’m going to try and force a knockout. I’m going to try and get everything naturally. Box, use the jab, go to the body, and stay busy on him.”

Rodriguez has shown good boxing skills in the past – though he hasn’t been in the ring much. He has a whopping 21 first-round knockouts to his credit.

Texas promoter Lester Bedford has said that Rodriguez has the stuff to become a star in this sport. A lot of things have to come together for that to happen, however.

His future could include Holyfield. It could include Tyson. But, first, there’s Rick Dyer. And Rodriguez wants to make a statement Saturday before a worldwide, pay-per-view audience. 

Rodriguez is not lacking in confidence for his first outing on the big stage.

“There’s going to be a knockout,” he said.


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