by Nat Gottlieb
A year ago Edwin Rodriguez and Jason Escalera would have made perfect dance partners. Both liked to brawl, neither ever backed down, and they didn’t mind getting dinged up in the process. They were warriors in the “Thunderdome” mold: two men enter, one man leaves.
But a funny thing happened to alpha-warrior Rodriguez on the road to his showdown fight on September 29 with Escalera in a loaded HBO tripleheader. Rodriguez made a pit stop in Houston to get his engine and body worked on and his brain re-wired by trainer Ronnie Shields. What came out of the garage was not a souped up-Dodge Ram, but a sleek Corvette with a lot of muscle under the hood and graceful finesse.
“When I first got Edwin,” Shields says, “he was throwing punches, wild and crazy punches. When he threw his combos, he was off balance. He had like zero defense. We retooled everything.”