When unbeaten super middleweight prospect Edwin Rodriguez makes his HBO debut on March 17, facing Don George on the Martinez vs Macklin undercard, he'll be fighting in part to lay to bed the notion that fighters from New England are coddled and protected before being exposed on bigger stages.
Here are some quotes from a few Massachusetts notables, as well as Rodriguez's trainer, Ronnie Shields.
"Sooner or later, you have to leave the nest. Massachusetts fighters go all over New England to fight, maybe travel to New York City or Philly, and then go away to train. That's what they have to do to improve their career. Edwin is a good fighter who has done very well so far. He'll have to get over a case of the nerves in his first HBO fight, but he'll get past that and do his job. If he keeps the drive he has, he'll go a long way in this sport, hopefully becoming world champion and representing Latinos like I did."
"Edwin's a highly-ranked super middleweight who can really punch. A good left hook to the body like his is a great equalizer. For me, it pulled out a few fights that I was losing. Edwin's a natural athlete and a humble guy."
"I've seen Edwin fight a few times and he's a good fighter. I wish him luck in a tough sport. He's going to get recognition fighting on HBO, something I never had the opportunity to do. Edwin's stepping up the ladder fast. If he keeps doing what he's been doing, he will be rewarded."
"I never believed any of that talk. Look at Micky Ward - he fought three hellacious fights with Arturo Gatti. Ruiz fought Holyfield three times when he was good. And McBride sent Tyson into retirement. There are other good fighters from there, too. A lot of people who downgrade fighters from there don't know what they're talking about. The guys I'm talking about are real fighters. Edwin is the leader of the next wave of Massachusetts fighters."
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Personally, I do understand the criticisms of recent New England fighters, and have myself been a critic of certain fighters from the area in the past. But like anything, I think it's a case-by-case basis, and while Rodriguez is a flawed fighter, I don't think he's been protected abnormally, and I don't think he'll lay an egg in his HBO debut. He's a good, fan-friendly fighter, and if he flames out at some point, or doesn't reach the heights he wants to, his being from Massachusetts will have nothing to do with it.