Rodriguez's act contains no smoke and mirrors

3/20/2007 - Boxing

What does it feel like to knock out an opponent?

"It's like you just did a magic trick," Delvin responded. "Like you did a great magic trick."

Some go for the big Vegas-style stage shows of David Copperfield. Others prefer the street acts of David Blaine. Personally, I connect with the consistent failure of Gob Bluth's illusions on TV's "Arrested Development."

However, like many "Friday Night Fights" fans, I've been thoroughly enjoying the magic of Delvin Rodriguez. OK, so he isn't a magician; however, he has mastered sleight of hand. A right hand, that is. A right hand that has been laying out opposing fighters like they were hypnotically entranced assistants during a levitation act.

It's a right hand that has helped score 11 knockdowns in his last seven fights. It's a right hand that has scored five knockouts in those fights. The only reason two of his recent fights didn't end in KOs is because of fan-frustrating decisions.

One Delvin survivor seemingly decided to purposely get disqualified rather than take the inevitable KO. The other opponent stopped engaging in the fight and ran (after tasting the canvas twice). That's like the lovely lady leaving the magic box before you get a chance to saw her in half.

Oh, but when the magic act is going smooth, Delvin (20-1-1, 12 KOs) loves the feeling. He is trying to put on that kind of a show in this week's FNF main event (Friday, ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) against the rugged veteran Jesse Feliciano (14-5-3, 8 KOs).

"In this fight, the guy is tough. He keeps coming. He wants to be in your face all night," Delvin said.

That can only mean one thing. Expect fireworks.

In less than three years, Delvin has become one of ESPN programmer Doug Loughrey's favorite fighters. That is thanks to magical performances that were a lot more Penn than Teller. These were outspoken showcases.

He produced moments like knocking undefeated prospect Allen Conyers through the ropes and onto the concrete. Or there was the time Delvin rose up off the canvas in the first round to score four unanswered knockdowns of Chris Henry. Then there was his demolishing of Luther Smith. The ringside EMT needed to help Smith leave the ring before he regained his whereabouts.

"When I land the right hand, I feel a snap to it. It feels smooth. It's like a good release," Delvin said. "It's like all your energy left your arm and went into your opponent."

The sweet science is beautiful. The machinations are fascinating. The pure athleticism and commitment to succeed demands your respect. But let's be honest, for even the most dedicated purist of the sport, it's the knockout that wows us. The chance that one man may render another incapable of continuing will keep you watching. Delvin Rodriguez keeps you watching.

"Everybody says that speed brings about power," said Delvin's manager, Stan Hoffman. "That is great to say, but I think that his trainer Lou Fusco has taught him that technique makes power. Lou spends an incredible amount of time explaining the physics of what each punch does, and the right way to throw the punch."

Fusco and Hoffman have laid the foundation for what has been an impressive career turnaround. Delvin's career was unguided and lingering. He had fought only five times from November '99 to October '03. Hoffman got him active with solid fights; Fusco got him more active with combination punches and solid results.

"Lou has showed him it isn't how hard you throw it but when you throw it, how you are throwing it and in what scenario," Hoffman said. "It's always been about throwing punches correctly, on balance and in what situation is presented to him."

The 26-year-old fighter believes in the science of it, also. Make that the science class of it. You remember those good ol' middle school days when the teacher mixed baking soda with vinegar. Yes, the chemical reaction volcano wasn't lost on Delvin. Nor his opponents.

"You throw your right hand, you punch the guy, and the next thing you know he's falling down. You feel the impact, but it's like you just touched him and he's down," Delvin said with schoolboy enthusiasm.

"It's like, 'How could that do that?' You don't feel a big bang -- it's more like a reaction. Something you don't expect. You put this and this together and it happens. Like the vinegar volcano."

Hoffman expects the next "this and this" that go together to make an eruption will be Delvin's glove and Feliciano's head. If that does indeed become the show-stopping magic trick, it'll be watch out welterweights, here comes Delvin.

"If he handles this guy like we think he is going to, then he should be ready for anyone," Hoffman said. "I am so high on what Lou Fusco has done with Delvin. Why not take on the best?"

It's hard to disagree. That is, if Delvin's magic show can make Jesse Feliciano disappear.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."