Edwin Rodriguez got a preview of things to come on a television in his locker room at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, before his 175-pound clash with Michael Seals in November.
Rodriguez watched Williams trade first-round knockdowns with Umberto Savigne before dropping and then stopping Savigne in the second round of their 175-pound match.
“I saw when [Williams] put Savigne down, and he got a little careless himself and then he went down,” Rodriguez says. “I watched the entire fight, [and] I was thinking that if we were to ever fight, that I would beat him.”
After Thomas’ victory, Rodriguez went out in the main event and himself traded first-round knockdowns with Seals before handing his 6-foot-2 opponent the first loss of his career with a third-round TKO.
Now Edwin Rodriguez (28-1, 19 KOs) will get an up-close view of Thomas Williams Jr. (19-1, 13 KOs) when the two heavy-handed 175-pounders square off April 30 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). The scheduled 10-round bout is part of a Premier Boxing Champions card headlined by a 147-pound rematch between former champions Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto, as well as a 126-pound co-feature matching former three-division titleist Fernando Montiel and Jorge Lara.
While Rodriguez believes he saw enough from his dressing room in Biloxi to know he can defeat Williams, the “Top Dog” cautions that the TV monitor didn’t paint an accurate picture of him. Against Savigne, Williams was coming off an 11-month layoff, which the 28-year-old southpaw says contributed to him briefly letting his guard down and hitting the canvas.
“I just had to shake off the ring rust,” Williams says. “It felt good to get back into the ring, and I’ve received a lot of good feedback about it being an exciting fight.”
Savigne wasn’t the first opponent to put Williams on his backside. In January 2014, Williams floored Cornelius White shortly after the opening bell, but White made it to his feet and—like Savigne—caught a reckless Williams with a shot that evened the knockdown score.
As was the case against Savigne, though, Williams was able to finish the job, dropping White a second time en route to an exciting first-round TKO win.
The way Rodriguez views it, Williams getting knocked down by White could be explained away as a momentary lapse in concentration. But when the exact same thing happened against Savigne, well, Rodriguez senses a trend.
“Williams doesn’t seem to be able to take a good shot,” says Rodriguez, a 30-year-old former 168-pound title challenger from Worcester, Massachusetts. “I think I’m going to knock him out early and end the fight.”
Even as Rodriguez says this, he understands he’s ripe for similar criticism because of the way he looked in the first round against Seals, barely surviving the second knockdown at the end of Round 1.
“That was the first time I’d been knocked down, and I learned not to get overly eager,” says Rodriguez, who eventually won the knockdown battle 3-2, dropping Seals in the first, second and third rounds. “Everybody can be a puncher in the pros, and you can’t underestimate your opponent. I got really careless and made it more of a fight than a boxing match, and I paid the price.”
Rodriguez emerged as a 168-pound contender with his eighth-round knockout of previously unbeaten Jason Escaler in September 2012. Rodriguez then won the four-man, Monte Carlo “Million Dollar Super Four” tournament in 2013.
That set up a title bout with then 168-pound champion Andre Ward in November 2013. After coming in overweight by two pounds, Rodriguez, who was a big underdog, faded down the stretch and lost a lopsided unanimous decision. That prompted Rodriguez to make the jump to 175.
Now he’s facing Williams, whose only blemish was a surprising fifth-round TKO loss to former champion Gabriel Campillo in April 2014, when Williams suffered a bad cut over his left eye and never recovered.
If Rodriguez is at all concerned that Seals exposed a flaw back in November, he’s hardly showing it as he pursues his fifth consecutive victory and fourth straight stoppage.
“I’ll definitely be ready,” says Rodriguez, who is prepping for Williams in Houston with trainer Ronnie Shields. “I’ll win this fight for a number of reasons, but mostly because of my experience, my technique and the fact that I’m a better overall fighter.”
For complete coverage of Rodriguez vs Williams, head over to our fight page.