It was just one loss, a single defeat, but it was like the oncoming winter soon to follow, chilling Edwin Rodriguez’s career, his future as clouded as a frosted window.
In November 2013, Edwin Rodriguez (27-1, 18 KOs) earned what remains the lone ‘L’ on his professional record against Andre Ward, not only the brightest star amid a constellation of 168-pound contenders, but a top-5 guy in the sport.
It was an ugly scrap, the boxing equivalent of a nasty freeway pileup, with both fighters getting docked two points for roughhouse tactics, and Ward eventually pulling away for a unanimous decision.
Back then, Rodriguez was among a handful of a guys universally recognized at the top of the division.
A loss to Ward, while bitterly disappointing to Rodriguez, was kind of like getting dunked on by Michael Jordan: It happened to everybody, even future Hall of Famers. It was a setback, to be sure, but at the time, it didn’t seem like it would be a lasting one.
And yet the defeat clung to Rodriguez like static electricity—he couldn’t shake its scent, the loss a hound on his trail.
Only a few months earlier, Rodriguez had defeated Denis Grachev to win the Monaco Million Dollar Super Four Tournament. Now he suddenly found himself on the outside looking in, seemingly having to start all over again.
After years of building his name in the sport, that name was all but forgotten when it came to landing big fights.
This was his reward for challenging the best?
“It took me two years to get where I’m at today, and I’m still not where I was before I fought Andre Ward,” Rodriguez says. “As fighters, we’re trained that if you lose, you’re going to get crucified. That’s why it’s so important to stay undefeated ... because after you lose, it’s going to take a lot of work for you to get back to where you were. So sometimes a lot of fighters don’t take risks.”
Rodriguez’s career struggles after his first defeat calls attention to one of boxing’s great variables: the uncertain, shifting value of wins and losses.
A big win doesn’t always equate to big fights and big paydays—just ask Guillermo Rigondeaux—and as Rodriguez’s case illustrates, a loss can seemingly have a disproportionate effect on a fighter’s career.
Still, despite his frustrations following the Ward bout, Rodriguez never made any excuses about the loss itself.
“It definitely bothered me a lot,” he acknowledges. “I’m a very competitive type of person. He was better than me, he did everything better than me, so he was able to be victorious that night. I had to put that behind me.”
To this end, Rodriguez moved up to 175 pounds and has spent the last two years establishing himself at that weight, his next fight against undefeated prospect Michael Seals (19-0, 14 KOs) on Friday night headlining a Premier Boxing Champions card in Biloxi, Mississippi (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
“I feel like I brought my power [to 175],” he says. “I feel more comfortable. I’ve got speed. I feel great at 175.”
These days, Rodriguez is focused on striking a balance between fireworks and finesse.
He may never forget his loss to Ward, but if he’s fun to watch, the fans just might.
“I’m just trying to find my happy medium where I can be aggressive and entertaining, but at the same time, be smart,” he says. “A lot of time when you’re trying to be entertaining, you get sloppy a little bit, you exchange when you’re not supposed to.
"I have a mission to accomplish, and that’s to get a world title shot. I have to look good to be able to accomplish that.”
For full coverage of Rodriguez vs Seals, visit our fight page.