Edwin Rodriguez and Thomas Williams Jr. have each warned fight fans to keep their eyes wide open Saturday, as neither believes their light heavyweight slugfest is going the distance.
One observer likely to heed that warning will be Adonis Stevenson. The 175-pound champion has a vested interest in the outcome of the brawl between Edwin Rodriguez (28-1, 19 KOs) and Thomas Williams Jr. (19-1, 13 KOs) from the StubHub Center in Carson, California (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
That’s because the winner might very well be coming after Stevenson’s title.
“They’re kind of auditioning to fight me,” says Stevenson, a 38-year-old who is 27-1 with 22 KOs and has been a world champion since June 2013. “They’re exciting knockout punchers, and whoever wins that fight, I’d love to fight him.”
Rodriguez, who will be after his fifth straight victory and his fourth consecutive stoppage, would love the challenge of facing the man nicknamed “Superman.”
“Stevenson has been a goal for a long time,” says Rodriguez, a 30-year-old former 168-pound title challenger from Worcester, Massachusetts. “I think he’s the best fighter at 175 right now, and that’s the fight that I want. I’m hoping that if I get that phone call after I take care of business against Thomas Williams that I’m in.”
As for Williams, if he has his sights set on a potential fight with Stevenson, he won’t admit it.
“My total focus is on crushing Edwin Rodriguez. He’s got a big mouth, and he’s talking a lot,” says Williams, 28, of Fort Washington, Maryland. “I’ve never been so focused on crushing somebody as I am Rodriguez.
“He can talk about fighting Stevenson or whoever, but he won’t even get to that.”
Rodriguez and Williams—who weighed in Friday at 177 and 176.8 pounds, respectively—registered their last victories at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi in November. Right after Williams scored a second-round stoppage of Umberto Savigne, Rodriguez earned a third-round TKO of previously unbeaten Michael Seals.
However, both fighters had to get off the deck to secure their wins. Rodriguez was floored twice by Seals during a first round in which Rodriguez already had scored a knockdown. After barely making it to the bell to end the opening frame, Rodriguez dropped Seals once each during the second and third rounds to finish him.
“ Thomas has gotten lucky because he hasn’t fought anybody as talented as I am ” Edwin Rodriguez on Thomas Williams Jr.
Williams, who was returning from an 11-month layoff, also swapped first-round knockdowns with Savigne before putting his opponent down and out in the second.
Rodriguez senses that Wiliams has issues with his chin, as the latter suffered his only loss to former champion Gabriel Campillo in August 2014 by fifth-round TKO—although Williams never got dropped, he suffered a bad cut over his eye, lost his composure and didn't answer the bell for the sixth round. He also hit the canvas eight months earlier during a wild, first-round TKO victory over over Cornelius White.
“Thomas has gotten lucky because he hasn’t fought anybody as talented as I am, and, quite frankly, he fought a faded Campillo and couldn’t even pull the trigger and he fell apart,” Rodriguez says. “I’ve beaten people who are better than Campillo.”
Without giving away his game plan, Rodriguez says he’s convinced he knows how to beat Williams.
“Knowing my ability, I’m looking to apply pressure from the beginning to the end,” he says. “So there’s a strong possibility that I’ll get the knockout early in the fight based on our styles.”
One interesting element to this scheduled 10-round clash is that Williams is a southpaw, and Rodriguez admittedly doesn’t have much experience facing lefties. For that reason, he sparred extensively with 175-pound undefeated southpaw Marcus Browne, a 25-year-old prospect coming off a disputed eight-round split decision win over Radivoje Kalajdzic on April 16.
Rodriguez says Browne gave him great work, and he plans to carry what he learned into the ring Saturday. Williams, though, isn’t buying it—nor is he buying what he believes is Rodriguez’s false bravado through social media.
“So he’s been sparring with Marcus Browne? That’s cool,” Williams says. “He’s also been saying a lot of things on Twitter. That’s not my thing. I don’t get caught up in that. I don’t trash talk like he’s been doing, and I don’t care about anything he says.
“I came from the gutter—from the bottom where I’ve had to fight for everything I’ve ever gotten. When we get into the ring, it’s going to be me and him, and all of that stuff about who he’s been sparring with won’t matter and all of the trash talking goes out the window.”
As committed as they are to their craft, both Rodriguez and Williams are equally committed to their families. They each have three children, and they say those children have provided them with all the necessary motivation leading up to Saturday night.
“You want to dig a lot deeper for your family, which definitely makes you work harder and gives you an edge,” Williams says. “You keep your mind clear and maintain your focus knowing you’re fighting for them. I know he’s a father also, but at the end of the day, my destiny’s written in stone.”
Says Rodriguez: “Everybody has something to fight for, and I don’t wish bad on anybody. But when I get into the ring on April 30, may the best man win, and that’s going to be me.
“I know he’s a dangerous puncher, but I think I’m a better fighter than Thomas Williams is on any day. On [Saturday] night, it’s going to be me and him. Nothing he or I have done in the past will matter.”
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