As a teenager, he used to imagine that those legendary “Hands of Stone” were his own.
From the time he got into boxing, Edwin Rodriguez (27-1, 18 KOs) patterned his style after Roberto Duran, whose combination of power and shiftiness elevated him to such heights within the sport, that young men the world over would trace his movements with their feet and fists, doing so on canvas in place of carbon paper.
“I looked up to him since I started boxing,” Rodriguez says. “He was somebody that I’d imitate. I’d try to fight like him.”
After doing so in the ring for years, Rodriguez is now doing so on the big screen. In the forthcoming boxing biopic Bleed For This, which chronicles the life of former multi-division champ Vinny Pazienza, Rodriguez portrays Duran, who twice lost to the “Pazmanian Devil.”
The film stars Miles Teller, perhaps best known as the collegiate drumming student/human pincushion in last year’s Whiplash and as Mr. Fantastic in the double flusher that was this past summer’s Fantastic Four reboot.
Rodriguez landed the Bleed gig almost by happenstance.
It all began one day when the Massachusetts native hit a nearby gym in Providence, Rhode Island, where he ran into Peter Quillin, who plays Roger Mayweather in Bleed.
In talking with Quillin, Rodriguez discovered that the filmmakers were looking for someone to portray Duran, as well.
At first, Rodriguez was skeptical of landing the part because, at 6 feet, he’s noticeably taller than the 5-foot-7 Duran.
But then again, the 6-foot Teller is rangier than the 5-7 Pazienza, so the two matched up.
Once they got in the ring together, Rodriguez says he and Teller had a natural chemistry where the action didn’t feel forced or prefabricated.
“Usually they had a choreographer who had all the moves prepared, but with me and [Teller], we did a lot of different scenes. We just did them over and over to fill in rounds and stuff like that,” Rodriguez notes. “It’s going to be great.”
OK, but really, how did a kid sister-approved, pretty-boy actor handle himself in the ring? This is the guy from the Divergent series, you know, those films that are known to make testosterone evaporate on contact.
“Miles Teller is a great actor. When he plays his roles, he’s so freaking professional,” says Rodriguez, who will take on Michael Seals (19-0, 14 KOs) in a 175-pound bout in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Friday night (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
“I was really impressed. I know about boxing, but where to be for the camera, the positioning, he helped me out a lot with that and I helped him out with the boxing. It worked out really well.”
Rodriguez has a rep for being one of the nicer guys in boxing, but c’mon, wasn’t it a little fun swinging on a dude that participated in the celluloid Velveeta that was the Footloose remake?
“It got a little heated here and there,” Rodriguez says. “I’m a professional, so I think he felt comfortable working with me because, yeah, my shots look like they’re hard and they’re going to hurt, but at the same time, I know how to place my shots, so there were no mistakes actually hitting him.
“I clipped him one time,” he adds, “but that’s about it.”
Really? With what?
“Just a little jab,” he says with a not-so-little chuckle.
For full coverage of Rodriguez vs Seals, visit our fight page.