This Saturday night, the lights of Madison Square Garden shine brightly on many of Top Rank’s rising stars. Terence Crawford, Felix Verdejo, Mike Reed and 21-year-old Julian “Hammer Hands” Rodriguez (11-0, 9 KOs).
Rodriguez, from Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey makes his 2016 debut against King Daluz (12-2, 2 KOs). Rodriguez has been on the fast track to stardom with Top Rank keeping him busy, fighting three times in 2015, and six times in 2014.
This new year brings more confidence, and a rejuvenated Rodriguez as he bounces back from a small bump in the road.
In June 2015, Rodriguez was under a different set of lights, as he had minor surgery on his shoulder. In the middle of Top Rank’s busy itinerary, Rodriguez’s schedule was put to a halt. But not for very long as four months later, under intense physical therapy, Rodriguez recovered impressively and returned to the ring in October as part of the undercard for Terence Crawford vs. Dierry Jean.
“I don’t know why the rush, I was ready to fight, but I’ll admit, that wasn’t my best,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, who won the fight by unanimous decision, hadn’t heard the reading of score cards since his second professional fight back in 2013.
Now four months later, yet again, Rodriguez talks proudly of how well this camp has gone and that this fight will be more of the “return” than the last.
After Saturday night, Rodriguez will take some time with his son Jaiden, his mom and girlfriend, before he travels to the west coast to help his old friend, Manny Pacquiao in preparations for the third fight against Timothy Bradley.
At 19, Rodriguez was invited to be part of training camp for the second Bradley fight and gave an inside look at how camp goes with one of boxing’s biggest stars.
[otw_shortcode_quote border=”bordered” border_style=”bordered”]We did everything together as a team–running, eating, training, going to church, hanging out in Pac’s home. I was beyond impressed with his footwork, I tried to learn more about that than anything else. His speed of course is great, but his footwork is what makes him such a great fighter. I know he’s going through a lot of heat right now, but I know the good guy he is deep down. I can’t wait to train with him again.[/otw_shortcode_quote]
Rodriguez admits the beautiful California weather will be nice to return to as well. “Jersey is cold right now, my entire camp has been running inside on treadmills, when I’m more of an outside, long distance runner. But I’m just grateful for the opportunity again,” said Rodriguez.
With much to look forward to, only being 21 years old and a great future ahead of him, the only focus right now for Hammer Hands is facing King Daluz, Saturday night in New York.
The livestream for the Crawford-Lundy undercard will be available on TopRank.TV.
All photos courtesy of Julian Rodriguez