Sitting Down with Corey “Collateral Damage” Rodriguez

There’s no doubt boxing is a grueling sport.  People get hurt.  People get cut.  And sometimes people get a head-butt that splits your face.  Gruesome?  Yes. Just ask Corey Rodriguez, that head-butt left him with 24 stitches just above his left eye.

Coming from a boxing family, it’s no surprise that Rodriguez had gloves on by the time he was three.  His dad would suit him up and the two would “punch” back and forth at each other in the back yard. That was likely the activity that set the tone for his childhood growing up in New Hope, Minnesota.  

Photo belongs to 13 twenty three photography

Photo belongs to 13 twenty three photography

“There were always lots of kids in the neighborhood.  We played baseball, basketball, football, Frisbee…we made up games.  I was very active and always outdoors until dark.  I was very competitive at all sports.”  Rodriguez recalled his childhood fondly.  “I played every sport I could, even did gymnastics for a year. It wasn’t a rough neighborhood at all.  It was nice and there were lots of kids.”  Sounds very…Mayberry.

But when you ask Corey Rodriguez about his boxing, specifically where the name Collateral Damage comes from, the fighter begins to emerge.  He said he was looking for something catchy that would go with either the “C” or the “R” in his name, but couldn’t think of anything good.  Then he came up with the concept that when you step into the ring with him, “You’re gonna take some collateral damage, you’re gonna endure some pain.”  

I don’t doubt that.

Rodriguez knew at an early age that he would get into boxing.  He started his journey at the Camden Gym with his dad, John, and Ray Nelson Sr. before moving on to the White Bear Gym.  They taught him boxing and life lessons along the way.  When asked if he had any experience with bullying or being a bully, Rodriguez said boxing usually took care of those things.

But there was this one time…

One day in middle school he was playing basketball with a kid in the gym and getting the better of him.  After, as they went down the hall the kid kept running into him, pushing him along and really just egging him on.  The kid finally took a swing and dropped Rodriguez to the floor.  He got up and punched the kid back.  He didn’t get back up.  Well, at least not right away.

That was the exception, not the rule for Rodriguez.  He felt that he shouldn’t fight unless it was to defend himself.  He knew he had an extra edge on other kids and he didn’t want to take that out on people.  Boxing had taught him extreme discipline and respect.  

“You can be a dangerous person if you choose to be reckless.”  Rodriguez calmly continued, “I’m the humble guy, a quiet guy, I don’t want to fight.  But if you want to fight me, you better be ready to get knocked out.”

Yep, Collateral Damage came out for a minute.

That was one thing that Rodriguez regrets, the trash-talk.  He never really felt comfortable doing it, especially if he was less prepared for the match, but he thought maybe it would help fill seats.  He knows now that he made enemies this way and insists that’s not who he is.

I’m certainly not going to argue.

In looking back over his matches, Rodriguez credits Jacob Hudson as his toughest competitor, and that’s no wonder.  Hudson boasts a pretty impressive list of credentials.  The Georgia native was a three-time National Silver Gloves Champion, three-time National Police Athletic League (PAL) Champion, in 1995 he represented Team Holyfield in International Quarterfinalist competition in the U.S. Open Championships, and he was ranked 9th nationally in the featherweight 125 pound division.  Definitely a serious competitor.

Though he lost the fight to Hudson, Rodriguez doesn’t count it as his toughest loss.  That distinction goes to Jamal James, the guy with a fondness for head-butts.  Rodriguez still can’t wrap his head around how he was outplayed, how the ref couldn’t see what James was doing.  The announcers and many fans wondered the same thing.  

But it happened, and it was bad.  And with stitches inside and outside of his head over his left eye, Rodriguez knew he had unfinished business.  He definitely was not done.

Author: Roxanne Wilmes

Roxanne is a freelance writer, author, ghostwriter, and avid boxing fan. She first met Chuck Horton when she ran his wife’s campaign for MN House of Representatives. Past experiences have led her to be a strong advocate for anti-bullying and substance abuse issues. You can reach her at roxannewilmes@gmail.com or @rocketwilmes on Twitter.