Ricardo Rodriguez is ready for his big moment.
He’s been preparing for years and is brimming with confidence that he will make good on the promise his young career has shown. For Rodriguez, the Golden Gloves Wisconsin tournament taking place on March 15 and 16 at the Marriott West isn’t about proving he belongs. He already knows he does. It’s about the opportunity to move on to the national scene for the first time in his life. It is a scene that he’s been denied access to because of red tape and politics. In the past, Rodriguez hasn’t been allowed to join his peers on the national scene because of issues relating to citizenship. But he says all of those things have been resolved and he’s ready for whatever is next.
“I’m at an opportunity right now in my life where I can advance to a national tournament knowing that if everything goes well at the Golden Gloves tournament in Madison, and I come out on top, I should be able to represent Wisconsin at 141 pounds,” Rodriguez told Madison365 in an interview at Ford’s Gym on Madison’s east side. “So I’m pretty excited about that right now. In the past, I could not compete at a national level because of political issues. So now that I’m in a better situation with my family and just everything is going well for me right now, the opportunity to be known at a national level is really high for me right now.”
Rodriguez has lived in the United States since he was two years old and has been boxing since age 11. He has competed in 80 amateur fights and has faced competitors who are now pro themselves. Rodriguez has completed the requirements to become a United States citizen and is hopeful that if everything goes well, he might even be able to represent the United States in Olympic competition.
“I was able to go through a process (for citizenship) and a lot of people think that process is a walk in the park. But citizenship takes a lot of years. And I’ve been here. I’ve been here since I was two years old and now I’m 26, and it’s been mostly all my life trying to get things right here. I’m just happy now knowing that I can just represent my family, represent the state and maybe be, hopefully, on the Olympic team.”
The streets made him start boxing. At a young age, Rodriguez found himself getting into the types of mischief many young people do, and his parents and teachers wanted him to find an outlet for all his extra energy.
“A teacher and my parents helped me get into a sport,” Rodriguez told Madison365. “I started baseball. So I was always athletic, I was always just active. Baseball felt like it wasn’t enough for me. My family was always in love with boxing. You know, my uncles would always have big events on (TV). As a kid, I went to family events, cookouts, and boxing was on. It was the Oscar de la Hoyas of the world, Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr. I turned 11 and I decided to go to boxing. Boxing was my calling.”
Rodriguez was mentored often in those early years by former WBA Flyweight World Champion and Madison native Eric Morel. Rodriguez has fought and defeated some of his most talented peers and is potentially on the cusp of a successful pro career.
“Hopefully I start to get ranked,” he said “I hope to get known and go to a USA tournament later in the year, see how I do at that level. I fought a lot of good competition locally for a lot of years. A lot of really good fighters who turned pro now and they’re doing really well right now as pros. So I know my skill level is up there. I know my abilities are up there with them.”
Talent like Rodriguez solidifies and legitimizes the Golden Gloves Wisconsin event at the Marriott West on John Q. Hammons Drive on March 15 and 16.
But the resurgence in boxing as a sport and the engine making Golden Gloves great again is Andrea Nelson, a longtime trainer and the face of the Bob Lynch Boxing Foundation, which has taken over the reins of the long-nascent Wisconsin boxing scene. To be honest, those aren’t Nelson’s words about her own deeds. But just ask anyone at Ford’s gym on Winnebago Street who is to thank for the currently vibrant state of boxing locally. They’ll point at Nelson.
Nelson told Madison365 that they have been able to gather more fighters than they’d originally anticipated and that tickets for the event are selling rapidly. Anyone who wants to buy a ticket can do so here. Nelson says even if you don’t come for the whole weekend, you don’t want to miss the Saturday night session, which will feature both men’s and women’s championship bouts beginning at 6 pm.
It promises to be a fun couple hours or days of boxing and everyone, especially Ricardo Rodriguez, is looking forward to it.
“It’s gonna be new, exciting, and Madison’s gonna be thrilled,” he said.