New doors open for E. Rodriguez

With his new deal, Edwin Rodriguez getting a shot at titleholder Sakio Bika makes sense. Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

Super middleweight contender Edwin Rodriguez's career is going in a new, and almost certainly positive, direction.

On July 13, Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs), perhaps the best American contender at 168 pounds, scored his most impressive victory by drilling Denis Grachev in the first round to win the $600,000 grand prize in the Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super Four tournament. Going into the fight, Rodriguez was in the process of parting ways with longtime manager Larry Army, and two weeks later they announced an amicable split.

This week, Rodriguez signed with powerful manager Al Haymon and appears headed to Showtime.

"Edwin informed me that he has signed with Al, and now Al and I are in conversations on his next move," Lou DiBella, Rodriguez's promoter, told ESPN.com.

But don't count on that next move being a fight on HBO, which aired both of Rodriguez's fights in 2012, before he went off to Europe to participate in the Monaco tournament.

HBO was interested in Rodriguez challenging super middleweight champion Andre Ward on Sept. 28. However, Ward's camp is pushing another opponent and Rodriguez, because of long-scheduled family plans, isn't available in September.

At a recent meeting with DiBella and network executives at the HBO offices in New York, Rodriguez offered to fight Ward in November (for the right deal, of course).

At the meeting, HBO said it wanted to buy a fight between Rodriguez and Ward and declined to talk about any other possibility for Rodriguez should that fight be unable to be made -- even though the network doesn't have Ward on board to face Rodriguez.

Once HBO laid out its position -- and it was clear he was unlikely to get on the network other than in a Ward fight -- Rodriguez signed with Haymon, essentially ending the prospects of his fighting on HBO.

Although DiBella has close ties with the network, Haymon (along with his main promotional partner, Golden Boy) was banned from HBO after his No. 1 client, Floyd Mayweather Jr., left HBO and signed a megadeal with Showtime/CBS that Haymon helped broker.

Now virtually all of the top fighters working with Haymon (most of whom are with Golden Boy) appear on Showtime, meaning you can probably count on seeing Rodriguez there soon. It's a bit surprising that HBO, which is so heavily involved at 168 and 175 pounds, basically showed one of the top contenders the door.

Now, I'm just theorizing here, but even though Showtime doesn't have a lot of action at super middleweight these days, it has enough. It aired Sakio Bika's rousing majority decision against Marco Antonio Periban on June 22, when Bika (32-5-2, 21 KOs) won a vacant belt. Bika's manager? Haymon. How long until Rodriguez gets his shot at Bika? Probably not too long.

Two other promising 168-pounders are getting airtime there: Anthony Dirrell (who also is represented by Haymon), and the Mayweather-promoted Badou Jack.