Trainer Ronnie Shields wasn’t nervous after Edwin Rodriguez was knocked down by Michael Seals for the first time in the first round. After all, Rodriguez had already dropped Seals himself, so this was just a little tit-for-tat.
Shields was, however, sweating the second time his fighter tasted canvas, as Rodriguez barely hung on to get to the other side of the bell.
“After the first knockdown, I was OK. I knew he was fine,” Shields said. “The second knockdown was what scared me. He was hurt real bad on the second one. But at the same time, when he came back to the corner, I asked him something [and] he answered, so I knew he was OK.”
Indeed he was.
After dishing out and receiving equal amounts of punishment in the opening stanza Friday night at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, Rodriguez regained control of the 175-pound battle in the second. Then just 24 seconds into the third, the Dominican Republic native finsihed off his unbeaten foe, officially scoring a TKO for his fourth consecutive victory and third straight stoppage.
Two ships firing broadside at each other in a desperate race to see whose hull would crack first was a more subtle undertaking than what Edwin Rodriguez (28-1, 19 KOs) and Michael Seals (19-1, 14 KOs) engaged in during their scheduled 10-rounder.
Rodriguez came out flinging an overhand right that pushed Seals back to the ropes, where Seals made a panicked move to roll out of the way of another blast—straight into Rodriguez’s waiting uppercut left.
With just 48 seconds gone in the bout, Seals went sailing face-first across the canvas, but regained his footing. Rodriguez made a wild move to replicate his success, but this time Seals had his opponent measured for a straight counter right. Seals, who calls himself “Cannonhandz,” had plenty of dry powder loaded in the barrel, as it was now Rodriguez’s turn to get acquainted with the floor.
Not at all cowed, Rodriguez rose to his feet and again waded in. Problem was, he waded in with his face, and Seals punished him with a second right that snapped Rodriguez’s head. It also made it a dicey proposition that the heavy favorite would make it to the next frame.
As he retreated to his corner, Rodriguez knew it was going to be one of those nights.
“We got a fight,” Rodriguez remembered thinking. “Bring it, let’s go. I had put him down, he put me down. It was all about who had a stronger will, and I came out victorious.
"Really, it wasn’t about experience or skills or anything like that. It was about will and who had the bigger heart to get up and fight through adversity. I was determined to win that fight.”
After surviving to make it to his stool after the first, Shields wanted Rodriguez to settle in and work the jab. Rodriguez, to his credit, took the advice to heart. He came out in the second and kept Seals at bay with a series of snapping lefts. The patience paid off late, when Rodriguez slid left into place and winged a snarling right over the top. Seals was dazed, but with only 15 seconds remaining in the round, he got out of it and back to his corner.
Rallies only count, though, if you can get back to solid ground. Seals could not.
Having already registered two knockdowns with the overhand right, Rodriguez knew what he needed to do. If the first two shots that put Seals down were cannon shots of Rodriguez’s own, the third was pure rocket-powered artillery, squarely hitting the bull's eye in enemy territory.
Seals’ head went through the ropes while his legs tried to scamper to the other side of the Biloxi Bay. The onetime college football linebacker never had a chance to get up.
“I’m an entertainment fighter. First time I go down as a professional I got back up and continued to fight and win," the 30-year-old Rodriguez said. "That’s what being a champion is all about."
With that, he fired one final punch, this one aimed at a champion in his own division. "Adonis [Stevenson] got knocked down, and he wasn’t able to get up," Rodriguez said of the 175-pound titleholder's 2010 knockout loss to Darnell Boone. "I brought it. Let’s go.”
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