“This was an opportunity you couldn’t say no to,” Rodriguez said. “Everybody wants to win but it doesn’t hurt to have that extra push.”
To prepare for the fight, Rodriguez relied on both new and old tricks. Trainer Ronnie Shields, who has been with Rodriguez since 2010, is the old. Together, the two have been working together to improve Rodriguez’s game. Rodriguez said his defense and pace as a pro have gotten better since training in Houston.
However for Grachev, Rodriguez is going beyond traditional training techniques. The 28-year-old prospect has added modern science to his training by working with Victor Conte in San Francisco. Rodriguez and Conte have worked together in the past but this is the first time Rodriguez has actually gone to San Francisco to train with him.
“I was able to learn a lot about scientific nutrition and high altitude training with a Hypoxico machine,” Rodriguez, who has to fight at a catchweight of 171 pounds, said. “Every training camp, I’m trying to do a little bit more to keep improving.
“Boxing is one of those sports. It’s so old school, where trainers were so against strength and conditioning but the sport has started moving in the right way,” Rodriguez added. “I’ve been able to see the difference of my recovery in between rounds, my breathing and stuff like that. I’ve seen the difference and I believe in it. I know that it works.”
Against Grachev, Rodriguez has the chance to make an impression. Despite the lack of a large audience watching, Rodriguez could make a statement by dominating a fighter who upset highly-regarded Ismayl Sillakh, beat Erdei and almost upset Lucian Bute.
If he wins, Rodriguez has his eyes set on WBC super middleweight titlist Sakio Bika.
“There’s a lot of things happening at 168,” Rodriguez said. “I have to take care of business first and speak to my promoter. Then I’ll take it from there.”
Any future ambitions start with winning Saturday.
“Grachev is a big puncher. It doesn’t matter how easy I’m winning the fight, I’ll always have to be aware of his power,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s a great style. My last opponent wasn’t trying to engage. I’m always looking to make a fight and he is too so our styles will clash. It’ll be a great fight to watch.”
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