By Kim Dunbar
Edwin Rodriquez is dangerous. He has impeccable aim and can deliver devastating blows even when you think you have your guard up. Just ask his friend, whom he nailed behind the ear with a paintball gun.
“He was wearing a mask,” said Rodriquez. “I don’t know how I got him there.”
Rodriguez, who turns 27 this month, is enjoying his new hobby as well as his recent HBO boxing debut at Madison Square Garden on March 17, where he won the US Boxing Association (USBA) super middleweight title.
“Nothing’s really changed,” he said. “A couple of days after I won, I was back doing the same things I always do.” Those things include playing ping pong in his basement and now paintball on the weekends. You’d think a 21-0, 14 KOs record would change a guy, but Worcester’s favorite son has pretty much stayed the same. Unless you count his fighting style.
Last summer, Rodriguez realized he was struggling with certain aspects of his game and switched trainers, shipping down to Houston to work with seasoned boxing pro Ronnie Shields. Rodriguez, who got his nickname “La Bomba” from the knock-out punches he lands, is now a more dynamic fighter.
“I’m not making mistakes like I was before,” he said of his March bout. “I showed the world it’s another way I can fight. I can trade punches. It makes me more dangerous.”
In addition to conditioning, Team Rodriguez has brought science into the mix, enlisting the help of Victor Conte, famous for founding the sports nutrition company BALCO (and spending time in prison). While Rodriquez was hesitant to get involved with such a name, he knows Conte is clean and a step in the championship direction.
“He’s a very smart guy,” Rodriguez said. “He is finding the right balance for my body.”
It seems to be working. Rodriguez is ranked among the top 15 by all four major governing bodies, including third by the International Boxing Federation.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling knowing that I am so close to one of my major goals of being a world champion,” he said. “But it doesn’t really matter. I am here to be number one, not two or three.”
In the meantime, Rodriquez is enjoying time with his family and waiting for his call, which should be coming soon. Until then, he’ll continue to dominate the paintball scene. Consider this your warning.
Photo by Ed Diller, shot from the top of the Empire State Building a few days prior to the March 17 fight. (Edwin Rodriguez, right)
Special thanks to Bob Trieger of Full Court Press
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