Edwin Rodriguez wants the best in the world, including Andre Ward
Edwin Rodriguez (right) fights Denis Grachev on Saturday in the "Million Dollar Super Four" final. (Ed Diller)
The baccarat table in Monte Carlo has been calling Edwin Rodriguez’s name all week, but it can wait for now.
“I have to be 100 percent focused for my fight…but when I get that big purse, I’m going to spend it all,” the unbeaten super middleweight brawler joked.
Rodriguez, whose dynamite displays of power have earned him the moniker “La Bomba,” will vie for the “Million Dollar Super Four” tournament crown in the Salle de Etoiles on Saturday against gritty Russian Denis Grachev (BeIN Sport/Xfinity channel 651, noon PT).
“We can go toe-to-toe all 10 rounds if he wants. Grachev is a really tough guy, but I want to see if he’ll do anything different except come forward. I don’t think he’s really been in with a fighter as good as me yet,” said Rodriguez, a 168-pounder who appeared on Yahoo! SportsTalk Live last month to talk about the clash in the French Riviera.
The name of the tournament is derived from the total amount of the final purse. Rodriguez (23-0, 15 KOs) will make $600,000 if he wins and $400,000 if he loses against Grachev (13-1-1, 8 KOs), a light heavyweight who will be descending to a catchweight of 171.5 pounds for the bout.
Both men won 10-round unanimous decisions in the semifinals back in March; Rodriguez outworked Ezequiel Maderna, while Grachev downed former lineal light heavyweight world champion Zsolt Erdei.
“They’re saying Grachev is going to have an advantage because of the weight, but after working here in the Bay Area with these guys, I’m more than ready,” said Rodriguez, who spent the first portion of his training camp in San Carlos with the foursome of nutritionist Victor Conte, sprint coach Remi Korchemny, strength coach Mike Bazzel, and trainer Brian Schwartz. “I can spar 15 rounds if I have to now, and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. He’s going to feel my power.”
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Rodriguez may originally be from Worcester, Mass., but his connection to the Bay Area stretches beyond his time in the Peninsula. His promoter, Lou DiBella, proudly wears two World Series rings by virtue of his ownership of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Giants’ Double-A affiliate.
“Lou loves baseball,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t get to check out [AT&T] Park when I was here, but I’m definitely making him get me some tickets next time I come.”
In fact, Rodriguez might want to familiarize himself with the region more thoroughly, because a victory on Saturday would propel him into the mix for matchups on HBO with local fighters like Sacramento’s Brandon Gonzales, or perhaps even the king of the super middleweights, Oakland’s Andre Ward.
“I am here to be the best, and right now, Andre Ward is the best in my weight class, and that is the fight I want,” Rodriguez said. “I know the people would like me to fight another top 10 guy, and as soon as I can get one of those top 10 guys in there, I’m willing to go to San Francisco, or wherever [the fight] is, and prove I’m the best super middleweight in the world [against Ward].”
A husband and father of twins with cerebral palsy, Rodriguez has spent several weeks away from his family as he trains for the biggest payday of his career. His wife, Stephanie, recently gave birth to their third child, and Rodriguez vows to make the couple’s respective sacrifices count in the ring on Saturday.
“I have to be able to provide for my family, and just seeing how much my kids have been able to fight for their lives, I have to fight for them,” Rodriguez said. “I’m going to give everything I have in the ring because my family deserves it.”
POTENTIAL MAYFIELD OPPONENT ON RODRIGUEZ-GRACHEV UNDERCARD
Before Rodriguez takes on Grachev, Bay Area boxing fans might want to tune into the co-feature, as WBA junior welterweight titleholder Khabib Allakhverdiev (18-0, 8 KOs) fights Souleymane M’baye (40-4-1, 22 KOs).
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Since inking a deal with promoter Top Rank last month, San Francisco’s Karim “Hard Hitta” Mayfield (17-0-1, 10 KOs; NorCal No. 4) has become a leading candidate to face Allakhverdiev, a fellow Top Rank client, down the line. Of course, if the title changes hands on Saturday, all bets are off.
“I signed with Top Rank to get the biggest fights, and a world title shot against Khabib is something I’ve been waiting for my whole career,” Mayfield said.
PEREZ AIMS TO TAKE OUT THE ‘TRASH’ ON NATIONAL TV
Junior lightweight Alejandro “El Alacrán” (“The Scorpion”) Perez will kick off his new Top Rank promotional deal with a 10-round slugfest on UniMás next Saturday (11 p.m. tape delay) against veteran Edgar Riovalle where both men are expected to swing for the fences.
Perez (17-3-1, 11 KOs), a 27-year-old North Salinas native who now trains in Southern California at Hollywood’s Wild Card Boxing Club, will make a short trip over to the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood to face Riovalle (35-14-2, 25 KOs), whose nickname “Basuras” inexplicably means garbage.
“I’m hungry. I can tell you that,” said the all-action Perez. “I live off this sport. This is my life. Whatever I have to do to be on top, I will do. There are boxing fans who want to see a fight, and that’s what they will see when I am in the ring.”
DONAIRE CLOSER TO REMATCH, WIFE SAVES DROWNING BOY
Former junior featherweight world champion Nonito Donaire of San Leandro appears headed toward a rematch with Armenian-Australian Vic Darchinyan, according to a report from BoxingScene.com.
“It’s likely to happen sometime in November,” said Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who promotes Donaire.
In 2007, a 112-pound version of Donaire introduced himself to the world stage when he viciously flattened Darchinyan (39-5-1, 28 KOs) in the fifth round to capture a piece of the flyweight championship. Since that period, Donaire has won titles in three more weight classes, but lost his junior featherweight belts to Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux in April.
The return bout with Darchinyan is scheduled to take place at or near the 122-pound limit; Donaire (31-2, 20 KOs; NorCal No. 2) is currently hovering around 140 pounds as he gets back into fighting shape.
In the meantime, Donaire’s wife Rachel made headlines earlier this week when she saved a boy from drowning. The heroic feat was even more impressive when considering that Rachel is currently nine months pregnant.
BRENTWOOD HOSTS AMATEUR CORNFEST CHAMPIONSHIP
Region 11 amateurs will participate in a local show Saturday at L.A. Boxing in Brentwood (8650 Brentwood Blvd.) that is being labeled the “Cornfest Boxing Championships.” The first fight is at 4 p.m., and pro light heavyweight Otis Griffin will be the special guest of honor. For tickets, go to cornfest.eventbee.com.
In-line photos courtesy Ed Diller, DBE & Associated press