Beyond the 19 victories—and 14 knockouts—there’s one statistic that stands out on Michael Seals’ résumé: He’s been so efficient that he’s never had to fight more than six rounds.
It’s a fact that Edwin Rodriguez and his camp think they can exploit in Friday’s 175-pound clash against Seals (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT). Get the scheduled 10-round fight into the latter stages, their thinking goes, and their opponent will crumble.
Seals scoffs at such a theory. Not only does the 33-year-old former collegiate linebacker insist he’ll be ready to swim the deep waters Friday night, but he plans to play the role of shark devouring his prey.
“Deep waters won’t [matter] when I have speed, power, focus and a strong will to win,” Seals says. “The longer the fight, the smarter and sharper I get. I’m a thinker. There’s meaning behind everything I do.
“You’ll see talents and abilities that aren’t by luck or a fluke.”
Perhaps so, but there’s no doubt that Michael Seals (19-0, 14 KOs) will enter the ring at Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi, as the prohibitive underdog against Rodriguez (27-1, 18 KOs). The biggest reason is a wide chasm in experience, which starts with their amateur careers: While Rodriguez went 84-9 and won the National Golden Gloves in 2006, Seals had a grand total of five fights before turning pro.
And when you look at their professional bios, you’ll see Rodriguez has fought 149 rounds in 28 bouts, compared with Seals’ 42 rounds in 19 fights.
Former heavyweight contender Johnathon Banks has perspective on both men, having been in the ring with each in sparring sessions. “They’re two really good dudes and friends of mine,” says Banks, who trains heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
“Seals has speed, timing, rhythm, great athleticism and was in great shape. But Rodriguez has veteran tricks, a come-forward style and applies a lot of pressure. Seals has to use his movement to make it into the later rounds.”
Getting to the later rounds against Rodriguez has been difficult of late. He’s 6-1 with four knockouts in his past seven bouts, the loss coming in November 2013 by unanimous decision to 168-pound champion Andre Ward, a bout for which Rodriguez missed weight at 170.
“ Mike’s like a 21-year-old with raw talent—a strong, skillful guy with a big a right cross. If he hits Rodriguez with it, he’ll probably go to sleep. ” Robert Allen, trainer for undefeated 175-pound prospect Michael Seals
This seven-fight run includes an eighth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Jason Escalera in September 2012, a first-round TKO of previously once-beaten Denis Grachev in July 2013 and a third-round TKO of Craig Baker—then 16-0 with 12 KOs—on May 23.
Rodriguez eyes another early night against Seals.
“I respect Michael Seals for risking his undefeated record against a top contender,” says Rodriguez, a 30-year-old Dominican Republic native who now resides in Worcester, Massachusetts. “I know he’ll bring it, but I’ll look to create the knockout to set myself up for a big fight against [175-pound champion] Adonis Stevenson or [top contender] Andrzej Fonfara.”
Robert Allen, a former 160-pound title challenger who now works in Seals’ corner, warns Rodriguez not to look too far ahead. He also takes issue with those who perceive his fighter as vulnerable or incapable of surviving past the middle rounds.
“Mike can go the distance, no problem,” says Allen, who trains Seals with Alain Felipe and Sugar Bert Wells. “He can pick his spots, turn it on and off, and fight how he wants to fight.
“Rodriguez is a tough guy with average skills. Mike’s like a 21-year-old with raw talent—a strong, skillful guy with a big a right cross. If he hits Rodriguez with it, he’ll probably go to sleep.”
Seals, whose biggest victory is a first-round knockout of former two-time 168-pound champion Byron Mitchell in December 2012, is coming off the longest bout of his career—a six-round unanimous decision over southpaw Carlos Reyes in March. That snapped his run of eight consecutive knockout wins.
“I hadn’t fought a southpaw in four years. I figured him out, put him down in the fifth and had him hanging by a thread before time ran out,” Seals says. “Guys like Mitchell were past his prime, but Edwin is closer to his prime and has more athleticism than he's credited for. But he’s not the athlete I am.”
While Seals may be the big underdog Friday night, he's definitely not acting like one. In fact, his temperament entering the biggest fight of his career is more like a thoroughbred stallion than a deer in headlights.
“Rodriguez might see me as a steppingstone, but I want that title shot against Adonis Stevenson next,” he says. “No matter what happens, I’m leaving it all in the ring.
"A lot of people are counting me out, but it’s my time. It’s the big kahuna for me.”
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