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Elvis Rodriguez And The Cost Of Doing Business In Boxing

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Most people in this country like to attend amusement parks, and roller coaster rides are often featured within these parks. When you get on the ride, and as it moves up, everyone is bracing themselves for that first significant drop. The funny thing is that the first drop isn’t the one you need to watch out for as you see it coming. The subsequent drops and turns are the ones that get you because you can’t anticipate those once the rollercoaster gains maximum speed and momentum.

The boxing business is like a roller coaster’s first drop, as many anticipate certain things that come along with being in the sport. They can’t see the dips and turns after that, which they aren’t as prepared to handle and often allow it to get the best of them.

The 25-year-old Dominican junior welterweight Elvis Rodriguez (11-1) has experienced this roller coaster ride as of late.

After being at the tip of everyone’s tongue as a potential prospect of the year recipient in 2020, things came crashing down after an upset decision loss in May.

Elvis Rodriguez trains out of the Wild Card Gym in L.A.

Living in Southern California for some years, I had the opportunity to watch quite a few of Elvis Rodriguez’s fights. When I saw him in his second fight after Vasyl Lomachenko dismantled Anthony Crolla, something special stood out about him.

Under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, Elvis was on the fast track and quickly became a priority for his promotional company Top Rank. So much so that he ended up with five fights last year during a time when boxing was slowly making its way back from the pandemic. Many thought he should have been the prospect of the year but lost that award to Super Middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga.

Although it probably bothered Team Rodriguez, they moved on from it and were booked for a fight in February against Luis Veron (15-2-1).

After defeating Veron by unanimous decision, the time had come to find another opponent, which continued to be a problem as no one wanted to fight the southpaw Rodriguez.

Finally, Kenneth Sims Jr. (15-2-1) out of Chicago was offered to Elvis’ manager Benny Lieblein, and after scouting Sims Jr, Team Rodriguez accepted the fight. I asked Elvis if any issues were present leading up to the fight, and he said, “I had some personal and health issues, but it’s not an excuse. Everyone has problems, and I should have found a way to work through them.”

Hearing that, I knew he was a pro and didn’t want to discredit Sims Jr.’s work that night.

When you watch the fight, it just seems like something wasn’t right with Elvis.

After watching many of his fights, I saw someone who had issues making in-ring adjustments. “I have no excuse as it just wasn’t my night. I was never able to get into my rhythm or feel comfortable during the fight,” said Elvis about his performance.

Two of the judges saw the fight 78-74, while one had it a draw.

In most cases, a loss would lead to a fighter “going back to the drawing board,” but this situation was different.

A few weeks later, Top Rank decided to sever ties with the boxer which was a surprise to many as he was seemingly trending upward as a prospect and had a minor setback with the decision loss.

The telephone conversation was simple between a Top Rank official and Elvis’ manager Benny: “Hey Ben, we will give you a release and move on.” Benny told NYF he saw the writing on the wall and felt it was pointless to argue about it.

Elvis’ manager is Benny Lieblein from NYC and doesn’t pull any punches when discussing his fighter.

Although Benny accepted it and moved on, he said, there were still some things he wanted to get off his chest. “The reality is there are color and cultural lines in boxing, and you have to fit into one of those lines. Unfortunately, dark-skinned Dominicans do not fit in either of those lines. Where do you take a Dominican fighter to sell out a stadium? I’m not the first one to say it as Bernard Hopkins has been very adamant about the same issues.”

Benny continued, “I heard some things being said by people from Top Rank, but if it was such a problem, then why didn’t you release us beforehand? It is what it is. We appreciate what they did for us and now its time to move on.”

Top Rank executive Carl Moretti was apprised of the overall tone of manager Benny’s assessment. Moretti responded: “It didn’t work out between us (TR) and his team. We thought he was consistently inconsistent in a very deep division. But in the end we wish him and his team nothing but success as he moves forward.”

After looking around for a suitable landing place for his fighter, Benny received a call from Ron Katz, who told him that Luis DeCubas was looking to talk to him on the phone. Luis  told Benny that he felt he could do the right thing by Elvis, and that led to the deal with PBC.

Can “The Guitar Man” regain that buzz he once had?

Shifting back to Elvis, I asked him what lessons he learned from this whole situation. “I learned how truly difficult the business of boxing is. No matter what happens, the only way things will be ok for you and the people around you is if you win. So, you always have to put in 100% and make sure you win because that’s all that anyone cares about at the end of the day.”

It sounds like words coming from a man who has experienced his fair share of ups and downs.

Elvis Rodriguez fights under the PBC banner and is scheduled to appear on the Canelo Alvarez vs. Caleb Plant card in Vegas. He is excited about the opportunity. “At first, I couldn’t believe it. This whole thing is like a new opportunity and a new beginning for my career. They offered us a good amount of money, and we jumped on it. I want to show the whole world who I am.”

As he winds down his camp, Elvis mentioned to me that he has been working on his mistakes in his last fight. What does he have to do to regain that buzz he once had?

“Stay focused and motivated. Be 100% every time I step into that ring and look spectacular.” It makes sense, and it seems like he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder going into this fight.

Finally, Elvis wanted to end the interview with some expectations for those tuning in. He said, “Fans are going to see a specular performance and a great fight. It’s the event of the year, and I’m coming in 110% for this fight. Everyone will see the re-launch and the new and improved Elvis Rodriguez.”

My Three Cents:

Many have come off the Elvis Rodriguez express train, but I’m not ready to do that just yet. I understand he didn’t look great in his last fight, but I’ve seen enough of him to know what’s there. This new deal with the PBC will be interesting as the belts are over with Top Rank. If all goes well, the plan must be to build his buzz back up in 2022 and have him compete for a title in 2023.

Will Elvis Rodriguez once again become a hot prospect that leads to a future title shot? Were the evaluators at Top Rank right in the sense that Elvis has peaked already? You will have to tune in on November 6th live on PPV to find out whether he is a diamond in the rough or a fugazi.

You can follow me on Twitter @abeg718 and follow @nyfights on Instagram.

Born and raised in the Bronx, New York City, Abe grew up in a family who were and still are die-hard boxing fans. He started contributing boxing articles to NYF in 2017. His club show pieces allow fans to see who is next on the horizon, and his training camp check ins are much anticipated. Abe can be found on twitter @abeg718.

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