It was supposed to be a
tune-up, a stay-busy fight for Pawel Wolak, who, after his domination of Yuri
Foreman, was moving toward a title shot. On ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights,” it
would serve as a chance to put Wolak in front of fight fans on national
After all, Delvin Rodriguez
had lost three of his last four fights and the term “journeyman” was used more
frequently before his name. After all, Rodriguez was the smaller man, having
never fought above the welterweight limit.
Like they say, styles do
On that Friday night in
July, Wolak and Rodriguez fought to majority draw in an instant classic, a
10-round war remembered for the grotesquely swollen right eye of Pawel Wolak.
The steel Enswell placed over the eye between rounds looked like a postage
stamp on a large envelope before Wolak’s corner resorted to pressing an old-fashioned,
chilled, metal ice cream scoop over the growing hematoma. I’m still wondering
how and when they found the ice cream scoop they used that night.
For many of the fight fans
that have sold out Madison Square Garden tonight, this is the fight they’re
most anticipating. If the old adage “You are who you are” is true, then fans
will again be treated to a back-and-forth, close, brutal fight. Does anyone
believe that Wolak will do anything but charge straight forward and try to keep
the fight in the closest quarters possible? And can Rodriguez really do much
different than last time? Sure, he’ll try to work harder at getting angles on
the “Raging Bull” but when the bell sounds, it’s likely that neither of these
old dogs will have any new tricks. They are who they are.
It’s difficult to add much
the story of this fight. If you saw the first one, you want to see the rematch,
plain and simple. Like the first fight, the outcome will almost surely be
decided by the judges. Rodriguez last scored a knockout three-and-a-half years
ago while Wolak, not considered a power puncher, never really hurt Rodriguez in
their first contest. For this writer, there is one nagging question: Can
Rodriguez get a fair decision facing a Top Rank fighter on a Top Rank
When asked about his fighter
getting a fair shake, Rodriguez’s promoter, Joe DeGuardia, gave Maxboxing the
standard answer of “We trust that the judges that the NYSAC have appointed will
score the fight fairly.” However, DeGuardia was quick to point out that in the
same state of New York, he felt his fighter deserved the nod in the first
outing “by two or three points.”
It was easy to detect the
doubt in DeGuardia’s voice regarding his guy not having a disadvantage in the
scoring. DeGuardia’s been around a long time and knows at this point, he can
only hope for the best.
DeGuardia also added that
for the first time in his career, Rodriguez has access to recourses such as a
nutritionist and strength-and-conditioning coach. Wolak also has enjoyed the
benefit of greater resources he didn’t have before his job in construction. In
the end, this is one of those great fights that will likely come down to which
warrior wants it more in the closing rounds.
That scenario begs the question
of who has more to lose. It’s easy to say Wolak does. A win will surely lead to
a title shot and even bigger paydays while a loss will bring claims that he was
exposed by Rodriguez and should have never been considered a true contender in
the first place. But Wolak became such a huge favorite of both fans and the
boxing media in the first fight that he will undoubtedly get more chances and
more television fights, regardless of how this fight ends.
Rodriguez’s career is very
likely on the line tonight. The draw in July will be considered a mere fluke,
an off night for Wolak, who was hampered by a swollen eye. Don’t expect Rodriguez’s
phone to ring with TV offers if he loses this one. This is his best- and
possibly final- shot at the big time.
In today’s world of
protected fighters and lousy television match-ups, this fight is a simple
contest of who will seize the moment, a chance for fight fans to just sit back
and enjoy. No drama, no phony trash-talk, just a good old-fashioned brawl. Like
Wolak said at the Thursday’s press conference, “I'm ready to go. I feel great.
“F**k it; lets fight.”