The first loss in the career of a professional boxer can be devastating. The zero can become part of his or her identity.
Some fighters are never the same after such a setback.
Others learn from their mistakes.
Last December, heavyweight David Rodriguez was on the verge of collecting his thirty-seventh straight victory. His opponent, veteran Darnell Wilson, was determined to knock him out. Rodriguez, out of the ring for two years due to injuries and managerial issues, had looked good in spots. But, with one second to go in the bout, the heavy-handed Wilson caught Rodriguez with a wicked left hook. The big man from El Paso, Texas collapsed in a heap.
The defeat devastated Rodriguez. But this is the same pugilist who survived a brutal encounter near a pizza restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz., three years ago. Bleeding profusely, he reportedly came within minutes of losing his life. Rodriguez sustained a wound from his jawline to his earlobe that required over 200 stitches.
The man is a fighter in more ways than one.
A few weeks after his loss to Wilson, Rodriguez was plotting his comeback. He’s set to return to the ring July 18 in El Paso.
“It's been tough, but I forgive myself,” Rodriguez told this writer via email a few days ago. “I've had injury after injury and a two- year layoff. It's not easy coming back and fighting a slugger like Darnell.
“He caught me, and those things happen, especially in the heavyweight division. Now it's all about how I handle the loss and come back,” said Rodriguez.
Fighters often talk about how a loss can be a learning experience. Rodriguez agrees.
“My mind keeps going back to training camp and the rush I was in to get in shape,” Rodriguez said. ”I came into camp at two hundred and seventy pounds - the heaviest I've ever been. I should have gone on a damn weight loss program first and done it right.”
Rodriguez believes his desire to succeed has sustained him during some of the more trying times of his career.
“I've always been motivated, but more so frustrated after the two extremely rough setbacks,” Rodriguez said. “Now, I just have to focus on getting back on track. I still feel good and I have something to prove to myself and nobody else.
“It's a spiritual vision quest for me,” he added.
Rodriguez, 36, has heard the criticism regarding the quality of his opposition. Before his latest injury, he was ranked as high as fifteenth in the heavyweight division.
He believes his losing effort four months ago proved more than all his previous victories.
“Boxing fans and fighters can always expect me to bring a ferocious attack,” Rodriguez said. “It's the way I fight. Now I just need to tighten up technically. I think the loss did show one thing, and that is my incredible heart. I will fight anyone until the very end.”