By Mariano A. Agmi
Photos: Emily Harney
Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito II was not the only high profile rematch taking place at Madison Square Garden on December 3rd. Fresh off the biggest win of his career, a ten round unanimous decision over Pawel “Raging Bull” Wolak, top junior middleweight contender Delvin Rodriguez spoke to Fightnews.com about his victory, what is next for his career, and when we can expect him back in the ring.
Rodriguez and Wolak first fought to a ten round draw in New York City in July of this year, in an action fight that is a top candidate for fight of the year. The bout was full of ebbs and flows, with Wolak applying constant pressure despite a grotesquely swollen eye while Rodriguez relied on superior boxing skills and a vicious short right uppercut. The draw set up a rematch on the biggest of stages, and Rodriguez (26-5-3, 14 KOs), a Dominican native now living in Danbury, CT, made the most of it by clearly outboxing Wolak, sending the Polish-American reeling into retirement in the final round.
Rodriguez, now primed for a title shot at the beginning of next year, had this to say:
Delvin, how do you feel after winning the biggest fight of your career on one of the biggest stages possible?
After all that hard work and so many ups and downs in my career, finally we get to HBO and win on a show like this. It was such a great win but you know, it still hasn’t hit me that hard yet but I’m very happy, very excited and very anxious to see what’s going to happen next.
Early in round one, it looked as though Pawel came out stronger and more aggressively than in the first fight. Did you feel that the fight was going to be tougher than the first one?
I knew he was going to come out aggressive. I told everyone that he was going to rush me. As soon as he started doing that, I threw my combinations and he felt my power. We prepared to stay low and really get leverage from my legs and I knew that once I started hitting him with the uppercut and he felt my power, he wasn’t going to be as aggressive or apply as much pressure as he did in the first fight. I think people saw that through the fight. Staying low and leveraging all of my power pushed him back and worked really, really well.
You made several key adjustments from the first fight that won you this bout more clearly, but you kept your strongest weapon, the right uppercut, intact. Can you tell us about that?
The uppercut was the main thing for us and we practiced it over and over in camp. Every combination that we started was with the uppercut. One thing that started working really well was, after the sixth or seventh round, I wasn’t just using my right uppercut, I was also using my left uppercut. It started with a straight right hand, left uppercut and a hook. It worked really well, and that’s when we cut him and he was bleeding out of his mouth and he started getting really hurt. I was hitting him with such savage uppercuts that my hand is still swollen from it. I kept doing it because I saw that it was getting to him and he was slowing down.
Was there any point during the fight where you felt that the momentum was shifting and that you had to reassert yourself?
I knew that every round I was catching him harder and harder and there were more combinations getting to him, so I wanted to increase the punches and maybe stop him.
The only other round that Wolak clearly won was round 6, where it looked like he really committed to attacking your body. Did he hurt you at all during the fight?
Not at all. Just like the first fight, he never really hurt me at all. There wasn’t a punch that I felt ‘wow’. He threw a lot of punches to the body but it’s funny that I didn’t really feel them. I guess my mind was so trained and so focused that I wasn’t really feeling the punches at all. I had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the fight with the boxing and the movement. We prepared so well and I felt so strong that it was just fun and enjoyment for me.
The crowd exploded in round ten when you went for broke and it looked like you were going to knock him out. How close were you to winning by KO?
I was very close, it got to the point that he wasn’t throwing any punches and he was getting hit so much that any other referee probably would have stopped the fight.
Was there a part of you that thought you had to knock him out in order to win the fight, or were you just trying to put an exclamation mark on your performance?
I knew that I was winning the fight, but I didn’t want to leave anything up to the judges. I didn’t want to leave any doubt. And another thing is that I felt so strong, I felt that I had a lot left in me, a lot of power, so I said to myself, ‘why leave all of that [energy] inside? Let me just let it go. It’s the last round, let me not leave any doubts whatsoever in anybody’s mind.
How do you compare the two fights? Was Wolak as strong and good as the first time, or did you just perform better?
I think I performed much better because I sat down on my punches. I think that made all the difference. I was putting much more power in my punches. People maybe wondered why he wasn’t throwing enough punches, but it was that I was sitting down on my punches and he felt those uppercuts. He was thinking twice before coming in. It wasn’t like the first fight. In the first fight, I was moving around too much. I was throwing combinations but they didn’t have much power behind them because I was fighting backing up. This time I was sitting much more and I was low, really putting power into my punches, and believe me, I was feeling my hands every time I hit him with the uppercut, and every punch was a hard punch.
You’ve had two really high profile fights this year. The first one was a bit of a surprise because a lot of people thought he was going to walk you down with his pressure. How much more attention are you receiving now that you have had two consecutive high profile bouts?
I’ve been doing interview after interview and I have another meeting tomorrow with HBO. There is a lot of attention after this fight and it sounds like a lot of good things are coming out of it. The first fight opened the door for me and I entered through the door with this fight. I’m very excited because we’re talking about big fights and I’m very happy with the outcome.
Speaking of a big fight on HBO or Showtime, and looking at the champions in your division right now, you have Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez, K9 Bundrage and Austin Trout, who would you prefer to fight?
I would love to fight ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. He’s a guy that has a lot of eyes on him. I’ve been watching him. He’s a good fighter, a lot of talent, very tough kid, but I see a lot ways that I go about fighting him. I think it would be a great fight for the fans, for HBO, for everybody. It’s a name that I know when I beat will really crank my career up. I believe I could beat him, and I would love to fight him.
Are you and Pawel friends now that you’ve shared these tough twenty rounds in the ring?
I haven’t talked to him after the fight, but before the fight we were very respectful towards each other. Inside the ring it’s a whole different thing but outside of the ring, I respect every fighter.
When do you expect to return to the ring?
We’re talking about sometime in February. The end of February or March, but not too far away because right now I’m in great shape. I’m going to enjoy my Christmas but I’m going to stay in shape.