By Graham Houston
Photo: Rich J. Hundley III
Edwin Rodriguez returns to ShoBox tonight when he tops the bill in a 10-rounder against James McGirt Jr., and I make this the stiffest test yet for the undefeated 168-pounder from Massachusetts. Rodriguez, a former U.S. national champion and national Golden Gloves champion in the amateurs, is an exciting prospect being groomed for big things, a boxer-puncher who goes to the body with telling effect.
I did think that Rodriguez got caught a bit too easily in his ShoBox fight with the game but limited Kevin Engel in April, but I think he wanted to look good and was so eager to land his hard punches that he didn’t always bother too much about defence. Rodriguez produced some classy punching from both hands, though, including left uppercuts, and he ended the bout with a driving right-hand shot to the body.
Born in the Dominican Republic, the 25-year-old “La Bomba” is trained by Peter Manfredo Sr., who sees Rodriguez as a future champion. With seven opponents stopped in his last eight fights, Rodriguez is the sort of offensive-minded fighter that fans like to watch.
McGirt is the underdog but he brings a busy, southpaw style and perhaps underrated boxing ability to the fight. When McGirt lost to Carlos DeLeon Jr. he simply got caught when he seemed on his way to winning. Veteran Angel Hernandez hustled his way to a decision win over McGirt, but that verdict somewhat surprised me — I really thought that McGirt deserved to win with his cleaner punching.
McGirt’s 10-round draw against Marcus Upshaw now looks quite a good result after Upshaw’s upset win over Renan St. Juste in Quebec. McGirt knocked Upshaw down in the first round but I thought that he wilted a bit down the stretch.
My impression of McGirt is that, while he is capable, he is not particularly robust. He has shown improvement under the coaching of his father, Buddy, the former champ at two weights, but I do feel that McGirt Jr. has reached his level. Rodriguez, meanwhile, looks like a fighter who is on the path to big things.
I don’t expect Rodriguez to have things all his own way, but he should win. Rodriguez has faced only one southpaw as a professional, which was in his last fight, when he stopped Ibaheim King in the fifth round. Although King isn’t anything special — he had lost three of his last four fights before meeting Rodriguez — he had never previously been stopped. Rodriguez was much too powerful for him, though, and his left hooks were particularly impressive against the southpaw.
Rodriguez is still learning and improving, and this fight is a sensible step-up for him. I think he will be tested, but perhaps not too severely. McGirt might be able to box competitively and land his share of punches but I think that Rodriguez will be the man who is doing the damage. I’m not sure that McGirt will be able to stand up to Rodriguez’s heavy hooks and body blows for the full 10 rounds. I will go for Rodriguez by stoppage around the eighth round.