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HBO books Edwin Rodriguez's MSG bout


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HBO books Edwin Rodriguez's MSG bout

HBO books Edwin Rodriguez's MSG bout

DONOVAN GEORGE ST. PATRICK'S DAY OPPONENT

Edwin Rodriguez with his his manager, Larry Army Jr., left, and trainer, Ronnie Shields, right. (T&G Staff/STEVE LANAVA)

By Bud Barth TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

Undefeated Edwin Rodriguez, who first tied on the gloves 10 years ago in the cramped and dirty bowels of the old Boys & Girls Club of Worcester on Ionic Avenue, is stepping up to the grandest stage in boxing under the brightest TV lights.

The 26-year-old super middleweight (20-0, 14 knockouts), also known as “La Bomba,” has signed to fight Donovan “Da Bomb” George (22-1, 19 KOs) on “HBO's World Championship Boxing” on St. Patrick's Day — Saturday, March 17 — at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Only national titles will be at stake between Rodriguez, the USNBC champion (a WBC-sanctioned belt), and George, the USBA king (an IBF-sponsored title).

Larry Army Jr., Rodriguez's manager, said there's an “outside chance” that the fight, a 12-rounder, could end up being an eliminator for the IBF world title.

“I don't think it's a big chance,” added Lou DiBella, Rodriguez's promoter and the former head of HBO sports. “But you've got two of the top six guys in the world fighting, so it really is a great opportunity for both guys.”

The Rodriguez-George fight will be a prelim to the main event between WBC Diamond middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (48-2-2, 27) and Matthew Macklin (28-3, 19), who lost his WBA Super title to Felix Sturm in his last bout in June.

Rodriguez, ranked No. 5 in the world by the IBF, has previously fought three times on Showtime and twice on ESPN2, but this will be his HBO debut. George, of Chicago, is No. 4 in the IBF rankings.

Army wouldn't reveal the purse, but he conceded that it will be “a substantial payday” for Rodriguez, easily his biggest. It is believed both fighters will earn six figures.

“There's no bigger stage than Madison Square Garden and no bigger network than HBO,” said Army, who was giddy over the news. “Edwin is going where few men have gone before.

“This should make for a wonderfully entertaining and exciting fight. This fight, stylistically, could make Edwin a superstar. That's what I'm hoping it does.”

George, 27, scored an eighth-round TKO of Maxell Taylor to win the vacant USBA title in his last fight on April 1. He owns victories over Osumanu Adama (20-2) and the then-unbeaten Cornelius White (18-1, 15), but he took a savage beating from Francisco Sierra (24-5-1, 22) in his only loss, a seventh-round technical decision in July 2010.

Both fighters are 6 feet tall, but Rodriguez has a 6-inch reach advantage, 76-70.

“Edwin's a great young fighter,” DiBella said. “If you want to assert yourself and boost your career, fighting at Madison Square Garden on HBO on St. Patrick's Day in New York City is about as big as you can get. … It's the opportunity of a lifetime for both guys.”

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