Throughout his progression up the ranks, unbeaten super middleweight Edwin Rodriguez has shown steady signs that he's ready to take on some of the biggest names in the division.
After Saturday's one-sided drubbing of an overmatched Jason Escalera in the main event of HBO's "Boxing After Dark" card at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn., Rodriguez called out exactly which fighters are on his radar.
"We want Kelly Pavlik -- I'm ready," said Rodriguez, with promoter Lou DiBella close by whispering into his ear.
Rodriguez (22-0, 15 KOs), of Worcester, Mass., who rehydrated up to 186 pounds on fight night, also mentioned a willingness to move up to light heavyweight, if necessary, against the likes of former champion Jean Pascal.
"Pascal is a good friend, but this is business," Rodriguez said. "If he wants to get it on, I'm down as well."
It seems that all Rodriguez has been lacking thus far is a signature performance to announce his arrival as a true contender. While Saturday's eighth-round TKO of Escalera (13-1-1, 12 KOs) wasn't quite that considering the class of his opponent, Rodriguez still failed to disappoint in a one-sided dismantling.
In his fourth fight under the tutelage of trainer Ronnie Shields, Rodriguez boxed well from the start, using his reach advantage to work the body before coming back upstairs with the right hand. Escalera, who lost his mouthpiece repeatedly throughout the bout, was bleeding from the mouth and was nearly out against the ropes to end a dominant first round for Rodriguez.
Escalera, of Union City, N.J., endured more of the same throughout the next seven rounds, eventually succumbing in the eighth after a right hand from Rodriguez badly bloodied his ear, forcing referee Steve Smoger to jump in.
Whatever Rodriguez has lacked in terms of excitement or explosiveness in his recent run as a featured television fighter, he has made up for with consistency and a workmanlike effort inside the ring. While it's too early to tell just how high his ceiling can be, he has yet to take enough of a step backward to raise any cause for concern.
The kind of fight Rodriguez now desires against Pavlik -- a name fighter in need of a breakthrough performance of his own -- appears to be the perfect litmus test to gauge just how ready Rodriguez is for the next level.
"I feel like I'm ready," Rodriguez said. "Today I wanted to send a message and I believe I did. I'm ready now. My promoter and manager have done a great job moving me along and if they think I'm ready, I'm ready."
Darchinyan overcomes odds to stun Del Valle
Veteran slugger Vic Darchinyan proved he had at least one more trick up his sleeve against previously unbeaten prospect Luis Orlando Del Valle.
A former flyweight and junior bantamweight titlist, Darchinyan (38-5-1, 27 KOs) moved up to 122 pounds with a bang by confusing and -- surprisingly -- outboxing the 25-year-old fighter en route to a 10-round unanimous decision (99-91 twice, 96-94).
Darchinyan, 36, utilized a smothering, unorthodox style to consistently land the harder shots, often with a stinging straight left hand. Del Valle (16-1, 11 KOs), of Puerto Rico, was never able to take control of the pace or rhythm of the fight and had trouble dealing with Darchinyan's herky-jerky style.
The bout featured pockets of exciting two-way action despite its one-sided ending on the scorecards. Del Valle never lost his will, even while being smothered throughout, and wobbled Darchinyan with a left hook in the ninth round.
The Aremenian-born Darchinyan, who resides in Australia, was able to close the show strong in an all-action final round. He went on to outland Del Valle overall by a margin of 227 to 132, according to CompuBox.
In the televised opener, Antonin Decarie (27-1, 8 KOs) of Montreal defeated Alex Perez (16-1, 9 KOs), of Newark, N.J., by sixth-round TKO in a welterweight bout. Decarie, who landed a series of thudding right hands throughout, connected on 99 of 150 power shots (66 percent).