Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs) won $600,000 for one round of action Saturday night in Monte Carlo against Denis Grachev (13-2-1, 8 KOs). The undefeated super middleweight passed multiple tests in moving up the world rankings to his current position at number 4 in the division, and his latest performance shows he’s more than ready to make millions and fight the best in the world at his weight.
Since October of 2011, Rodriguez faced three other undefeated boxers with a combined 46-0-1 record. He beat them all decisively. The Million Dollar Super 4 Tournament he won Saturday offered him a chance to fight for the largest purse of his career, and he did not disappoint. He started the tournament by outpointing Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna with a combined 11-point margin on all three scorecards. Maderna went into that bout looking for his twentieth straight win, but Rodriguez gave him his first career loss instead.
Grachev vanquished a much tougher opponent in undefeated Zsolt Erdei to gain his berth in the tournament final. Erdei came into the contest with 33 straight wins and 18 knockouts. Erdei also had the most impressive resume of all four tourney competitors as a former WBO light heavyweight and WBC cruiserweight champion with 12 world title fights to his credit.
The first-round TKO loss to Rodriguez marks the first time Grachev’s been stopped in his career. Grachev’s last few bouts are a huge step up in competition for a fighter with less than 20 total fights, but his only other prior loss came by unanimous decision against a 30-1 Lucian Bute last November.
Rodriguez is ready for a title shot in the division, but anyone in the top 10 would be a good fit for the Dominican-born phenom in his next fight. If he’s willing to travel to Germany, a bout with Robert Stieglitz (45-3, 25 KOs) would be a great test, and a win would give him the WBO super middleweight belt. Stieglitz is coming off his own Saturday win against an under-matched Yuzo Kiyota (23-4-1, 21 KOs).
Rodriguez, who lives in Worcester, MA, could also take the bold step of challenging Andre Ward (26-0, 14 KOs), the only other American-based fighter in the top 10 at super middleweight. Ward’s dominant boxing over the last few years against every big name in the division makes him the most avoided opponent in the sport. Rodriguez could make a huge statement by beating Ward, and just signing that fight could make him a multi-millionaire. A win would garner Rodriguez the WBC and WBA titles and a slot among the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
At the same time, Rodriguez would risk his undefeated record instead of an opportunity to take a little more time to hone his craft by facing a few of Ward’s recent opponents to see how his performances against them compare. Ward has been looking for a fight since beating Chad Dawson (31-3, 17 KOs) last September by 10th-round TKO.
Regardless of who becomes the next opponent for Rodriguez, he proved Saturday that he deserves the opportunity to perform on a bigger stage against tougher competition, and for much higher purses than he’s used to. If a world title fight is not in his immediate future, it could be one fight away. It’s only a matter of time before his ultimate goal in the sport is realized.