WOONSOCKET — Will the third bout in Reynaldo Rodriguez’s comeback be the charm?
It’s been more than seven years since Rodriguez experienced the thrill of victory, but the Woonsocket super middleweight will try to end that dry spell on Friday, July 29, when he appears on the undercard of Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.’s “Heat Wave” show at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Rodriguez (5-2, 2 KOs) will contest Keith Kozlin (6-2, 4 KOs) of West Warwick in a six-round showdown that’s sure to grab the attention of the Rhode Island fight fans that will make the short trek to the casino.
Rodriguez, who is joined on the card by two more Blackstone Valley boxers, Pawtucket’s Thomas Falowo and Eddie “The Puerto Rican Sensation” Soto, will also have a new head trainer (Luis Mejia), the Woonsocket Boxing Club and trainer Bob Moreau backing him, and a determination to get back on track after losing his two fights in 2010.
“My last two fights, I was trying to brawl and not box, and that’s why I lost,” Rodriguez said during a break in his Wednesday night workout at the Woonsocket Boxing Club. “I have a new trainer, Luis Mejia, who’s teaching me how to box and use my brain instead of my heart. We’re working hard, and I’m in great shape and I’m ready to fight.”
Earlier last year, Rodriguez quietly returned to the sport and looked to make up for lost time – nearly six years worth – after spending more than five years in prison for a federal drug trafficking offense.
When he turned pro in the summer of 2003, it didn’t take him long to establish himself as one of the top middleweight prospects in New England. In just 10½ months, he produced a 5-0 record (2 KOs).
The last time he won a boxing match was back on May 14, 2004 when he claimed a four-round majority decision over Rashard Sanders at the R.I. Convention Center.
But since leaving prison on Feb. 17 of last year and hooking up with Manfredo’s Gym in Pawtucket, Rodriguez had suffered a pair of knockout losses.
In his comeback fight on June 24, he absorbed a first-round TKO at the hands of Richard Pierson at the Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Mass., and 3½ months later, Greg McCoy of nearby New Haven, Conn. dealt him a second-round TKO at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
After that loss, Rodriguez was thinking of quitting boxing, but after some soul searching, and a meeting with Mejia in early February, he quickly changed his mind.
“I wanted to quit, but I said (to myself) I can’t quit because I’m fighting for my people,” added Rodriguez. “I owe my people something, my family, my kids. One of my friends took me to his house, and I asked him to train me. He said yes and we started from there.”
Rodriguez has been hard at work in the gym for the past five-plus months. Not only is he currently in excellent shape at 175 pounds and needing to lose just three pounds between now and the fight, but he’s had some excellent sparring sessions along the way.
“I feel strong,” remarked Rodriguez. “I’m been sparring some good guys -- (Luis) Ayala, (Greg) McCoy, guys from this gym -- and every sparring session, we’ve been doing well. I just have to remember to take baby steps. I wanted to take big steps last year, and that’s why I had two losses.”
Ironically, Rodriguez will become the second Woonsocket boxer in as many years to step in the ring with Kozlin. Last November, Kozlin fought Joe Gardner for the New England light heavyweight title at the Twin River Event Center, and Gardner claimed the belt with a six-round unanimous-decision victory.
“I want to box him with a jab and put pressure on the body,” offered Rodriguez. “You’re going to see a different man. It’s my time and I’m fighting for my people, and hopefully, we’re going to come (away) with a win.”
Falowo, a hard-hitting middleweight who trains at Manfredo’s Gym, will seek his fourth straight victory since turning pro last November when he battles Russ Niggemyer (2-2, 2 KOs) of Hilliard, Ohio in a four-round test.
All three of Falowo’s wins have come by way of the TKO. He defeated Odias Dumezil in the second round of his pro debut last Nov. 11 at the Twin River Event Center, McCoy in the fourth round of a Feb. 4 fight at Mohegan Sun, and Zack Thomas in the third round of a May 6 bout at Foxwoods.
Soto, a veteran light middleweight and former New England middleweight champion, has an interesting fight on his hands, as he faces former “The Contender II” reality television star Jeff Fraza (17-3, 10 KOs) of Haverhill, Mass. in a six-round contest.
Fraza, a former New England light middleweight champ, is making his return to the sport after a 5½-year absence. His last fight was also his only one on “The Contender II”, as he dropped a five-round unanimous-decision loss to Nick Acevedo on Jan. 29, 2006.
He was also part of the cast on the inaugural “Contender” that included Peter Manfredo Jr. in 2004, but a bout with chicken pox during the first few weeks of filming forced him to leave the show.
Soto, who turns 35 today, lost his two fights in 2010 after winning the first 12 of his pro career, four of them via knockouts. In his last fight, he took on unbeaten prospect Mike Faragon in his first main event on July 30 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and that resulted in the first stoppage of his career, a fourth-round TKO.
Two championship bouts will highlight the show, including the main event, a 12-round showdown between Kevin McBride (35-9-1, 29 KOs) and Mariusz Wach (24-0, 12 KOs) for the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) International heavyweight title. Wach is an intimidating presence at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds.
The co-feature promises to be a real treat for the Connecticut fans in attendance. It’s a 10-round slugfest between talented Elvin Ayala (23-5-1, 11 KOs) of New Haven and Israel Cardona (36-10, 28 KOs) of Hartford for the vacant WBC U.S. National Boxing Council (USNBC) middleweight title.
Three other fights worth checking out include welterweight Edwin Soto (6-0-1, 2 KOs) of New Haven vs. Jose Duran (6-5-2, 3 KOs) of Sarasota, Fla., heavyweight Artur Spzilka (5-0, 3 KOs) of Wieliczka, Poland vs. David Williams (6-4-1, 2 KOs) of Philadelphia, and welterweight Johnathan Vazquez (4-0, 3 KOs) of New Bedford, Mass. vs. Agustine Maurus (pro debut) of Lawrence, Mass.
Former three-time world champion Jose Antonio Rivera (40-6-1, 24 KOs) of Worcester, Mass. will also fight in a special eight-round light middleweight attraction against a foe to be determined.
Tickets are priced at $40, $65, and $105 and can be purchased by calling CES at 724-2253/2254 or Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000, going online at www.cesboxing.com  or www.ticketmaster.com , or by visiting the Mohegan Sun box office. The doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the first bout scheduled for 7:30 p.m.