On the scorecards, nobody won the ESPN2 Friday Night Fights main event between Delvin Rodriguez and Pawel Wolak. But both men won plenty more with their majority draw than the average “W” on the record will give you, because their Fight of the Year candidate will earn them the undying love of fans. The biggest winners were anyone who saw this blue collar war, hyped in advance as one of 2011’s potential best — hype that turned out to be right on the money.
It was an evenly-contested, seesaw affair with a mountain of drama growing right on Wolak’s grotesquely swollen right eye. The career-long junior middleweight might have moved up a couple divisions in one night courtesy a hematoma that went from “routine swelling” in the 4th round to “oh my God, how is he still fighting with that monster squeezing his eye shut?” in the 7th.
For Rodriguez, the drama was in whether he could finally get a win in a close fight, one made all the harder by a move up from welterweight. In his last six fights coming in to this one, he had one draw and three losses that could have gone his way.
Wolak started fast, putting the kind of pressure on Rodriguez that makes you feel like you’re being suffocated just watching it. But Rodriguez started finding Rodriguez with uppercuts in the very next round. The first half of the fight was a little harder to score than the second half, with the 6th going to Wolak as Rodriguez seemingly tired from all that harrassment.
But I thought Rodriguez closed much stronger. Let me correct that: Wolak’s eye closed the strongest. But the doctor kept letting him fight with it, and I agreed with the decision. However, it did appear to inhibit him. Rodriguez was catching Wolak with sharp-shooting left hooks and straight rights; Wolak stayed on top of Rodriguez, hanging around in the 100-plus punches per round neighborhood, but was less effective.
In the end, I gave Rodriguez seven rounds. Most people scoring on Twitter either had it a win for Rodriguez, six rounds to four, or a draw. It’s too bad for Rodriguez that he once more couldn’t pull out a close fight. But it was indeed a close fight, one where a draw isn’t anything out of order.
And anyway, this was boxing ecstacy — the endorphins were such that, even if someone wanted to pick nits over the outcome, why would you? With a win, Wolak was supposed to get a big fight on a pay-per-view undercard later this year, probably in December under Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II. But there is no bigger fight for Wolak than Wolak-Rodriguez II. Both men want a rematch. I think I speak for everyone when I say, “Us, too!”