Master Class: Ward Schools Rodriguez

By Robert Ecksel on November 16, 2013
Master Class: Ward Schools Rodriguez
It was an ugly fight, a beautiful fight, and corroboration of Ward's pound-for-pound status.

WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward took Edwin Rodriguez to school Saturday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California…

“You’re boxing a masterpiece.”—Virgil Hunter to Andre Ward

Saturday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KOs), from Oakland, California, successfully defended his WBA super middleweight title by taking Edwin Rodriguez (24-1, 16 KOs), from Worcester, Massachusetts, to school over 12 one-sided rounds.

It was night when Ward could do nothing wrong, and Rodriguez could do nothing right.

Ward, fighting out of the blue corner in blue trunks, was returning to active duty after 14 months due to an injury. Those who were expecting ring rust, a reasonable expectation under the circumstances, were quickly disabused of that notion. Ward looked as sharp as a stiletto and just as deadly.

Fighting out of the red corner in blue trunks with red and green trim, Rodriguez needed to erase the memory of the pre-fight weigh-in fiasco in order to be taken seriously again. Unfortunately, in light of his performance, complete with roughhouse tactics that would make the unflappable Vince McMahon blush, that impression has not changed.

Ward has dealt with boxers. He has dealt with punchers. Rodriguez and his cornerman, Ronnie Shields, must have studied the tapes. They concluded that Ward, however successful he has been, hadn’t faced any wrestlers in the ring. With that in mind, Rodriguez bolted from his corner at the bell t start the fight. Winging punches and grappling, he was determined to get Ward out of his comfort zone. I’m not sure how successful he was at getting Ward out of his comfort zone, but those of us expecting a boxing match and not some genus of MMA were discomfited by the goings-on.

Ward, by contrast, was composed. His power jab, which grew more powerful as the fight progressed, was precise, and he mixed it with body shots and a dynamic left hook. Rodriguez set the tone, however, which was dissonant, but he did enough to win round one by a hair.

Rounds two and three were all Andre Ward. He was willing to fight fire with fire. If Rodriguez was going to foul, Ward was going to foul him back. But Ward’s skills are so superior to his opponent’s in every category, perhaps even fouling, that it was apparent the fight was going to be a romp. Ward landed 25 of 56 punches after two rounds, and 28 of 45 in the third.

The WWF free-for-all continued in round four. Excessive holding, twisting of arms, using elbows, hitting on the hip and behind the head were more than referee Jack Reiss had bargained for. He had already spent three rounds trying to disentangle the fighters. He was trying his damnedest to keep it clean. But Ward and Rodriguez, engaged in a dangerous game of tit-for-tat, were paying no more attention to the ref than they were paying attention to the rules. When he told them to break he was ignored. When he tried to separate them physically, an errant punch caught him in the face.

Reiss called time. He took control of the fight. He said, “I got hit. I got intentional fouls,” and deducted two points each from both fighters for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” He told Ward, “I’m not going to allow this. You’re instigating a lot of this.” He told Rodriguez, “I’m not going to put up with this. And you’re hitting me.” Then he leaned over the ring ropes and told the WBA supervisor, “I’d like to fine both of them. You determine what it is.” The thought of losing money put a chill on the proceedings, at least as far as the fighters were concerned, and the Marquis of Queensberry stopped spinning in his grave.

With the rules being strictly enforced, there was little Rodriguez could do against Ward. Ward would just as soon fight clean as dirty and unleashed his textbook arsenal of punches. Power jabs, lead rights, hooks, uppercuts, two-, three-, and four-punch combinations to the head and body—the professor of pugilism went to work. He took control of the fight and made Rodriguez look like an amateur going up against a pro. Ward took rounds five through 10, landing at will against his hapless opponent. Rodriguez never quit and may have even done enough to win the 11th, but it was a one-sided fight, an ugly and beautiful fight, and corroboration of Ward’s pound-for-pound status.

After 12 rounds of action, the judges scored it 118-106, 117-107, and 116-108. Ward landed 217 total punches to Rodriguez’s 65. He outlanded Rodriguez in the jab department by 86 to 19. He also landed 131 power punches (41%) to La Bomba’s 66.

After the fight Ward said, “He (Rodriguez) didn’t really come to win. He came to get lucky, like he wants to hold, make it ugly, and hope he catches you with something big. And you gotta learn how to fight those guys. It’s not always going to be a spectacular performance, but a win is a win and I feel like I did great being off 14 months. I’m happy to be back.”

Ward was asked what he thought about Rodriguez’s failure to make weight.

“I feel these things aren’t professional,” he said. “It’s a championship fight. There’s no way in my first championship fight that I wouldn’t make weight—and didn’t even try to make weight. So I was in here with a bigger man. It kind of is what it is and is behind us, but I use all those little things leading up to the fight, all the talk and all the different things he said. It’s motivation, it’s not personal. I just run that extra mile and spar that extra round when I hear guys talk like that.

“But at the end of the day, boxing is already a tough enough business to not put up with illegal blows. I watched his films and he does that repeatedly inside. I don’t mind an occasional foul if it’s an accident, but the intentional stuff I just can’t put up with. But Jack Reiss did a tremendous job. It’s a fight. You’ve got two men fighting for everything, and he did a tremendous job tonight keeping the action where it needed to be.”

Kudos to referee Jack Reiss. And kudos, of course, to super middleweight champion Andre Ward.

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  1. Joe 05:38am, 11/18/2013

    SOG looked pretty doggone good after a 14 month layoff.  It’s unfortunate it doesn’t look like he’s ever going to be in position to make the huge PPV dollars other cats do; unless he hangs in there as long as BHop.  And Goossen-Tudor as the promoter isn’t helping either.

  2. Pete Okoh 11:30pm, 11/17/2013

    I feel Ward took care of business. I enjoy watching someone perform at the highest level possible. It was a boxing clinic. Ward was disappointed that Rodriguez was not professional enough to make the weight. So he decided to beat him up all night to teach him a lesson. Ward is definitely the best boxer in his division and number 2 pound for pound in the sport. Andre “S.O.G.” Ward is exactly what boxing needs right now, a dedicated champion!

  3. artjd 04:01pm, 11/17/2013

    As always and every Ward’s fight, it was ugly.  You can see Ward was kind of surprised and agitated because Rodriguez was doing what Ward does best, holding and grappling.  You can also see Ward as feather-fisted guy who, it seems, can’t even knockout a featherweight.  I think Rodriguez can just stand there and took all of Ward’s best shot and would not be affected at all.

  4. Ted Spoon 10:29am, 11/17/2013

    For me the roughhousing was refreshing; inside fighting had been a dying art lately but it is one of Ward’s greatest strengths. I love the physicality of him. For a classy boxer he absolutely refuses the be bullied and it is one aspect he trumps Mayweather in. Andre would be right at home in the ‘50s with Ruby Goldstein looking on. Generally, referee Jack Reiss handled the bout well, but I felt he was guilty of (as a lot of today’s referee’s are) taking centre stage with his authority. Do what you must and then continue. There were no blatant fouls, just two feisty boxers.

  5. Pete The Sneak 08:22am, 11/17/2013

    Always makes me scratch my head when you see these pre-fight pieces on what these fighters are fighting for; in Rodriguez’s case he has twin children with some form of disability in which he wants to make sure they are taking care of. I mean, if that does not motivate you to go all out in ensuring that you make weight and be in the best shape of your life for what may be perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to fight for a world title, then I truly don’t know where these guys’ heads are at. Man, that 200 Grand he threw down the drain I’m sure would have helped his family in some form or manner…Peace.

  6. Ted 07:22am, 11/17/2013

    He is a modern-day Charley Burley

  7. NYIrish 06:17am, 11/17/2013

    Rodriguez shows up overweight and out of shape. Gets fined 200k and doesn’t try to make weight. Whoever is taking the managers cut is not paying attention to the run up to the fight. Who trained him? Ronnie Shields worked the corner but had no control of the fighter. Shields corners lots of guys who get pounded round after round. Does he meet them the night of the fight? The worst aspects of pro boxing factored in before this fight. The result was Rodriguez gave an exhibition of blocking punches with his head. This is how guys get hurt permanently. Then all involved act shocked and crestfallen.

  8. Rick 11:04pm, 11/16/2013

    But the difference is that Andre relies on those “illegalities” in pretty much every fight. And he was just as guilty tonight as Rodriguez regardless of whether HBO or the ref acknowledged it. He holds constantly, holds and hits, and uses his head and forearm enough to make Floyd Mayweather blush. But Ward is quick to look to at the ref for help or raise his hands in the air as if to demand a break from from the ref like he’s incredulous that someone would return the favor to him. And for whatever reason these officials are all too happy to oblige him. But to me his most annoying tactic is to throw one punch then jump on and smother his opponent, often leading with his forearm. But never a word from the ref. The sad part of it is he usually doesn’t even need to do it but apparently he can’t help himself. He could’ve still easily won tonight without any of the nonsense. That’s the main reason I’m not a fan of his and likely never will be and why I’m sure he will never be a fan favorite despite HBOs insistence. If he had KO power it would be different but Rodriguez was never in any serious trouble tonight despite eating several flush shots. My advice to Ward would be to quit screwing around in the SM division and move up. Who is going to stick around at 168 to fight? If he’s the great champion people say then he should want to challenge himself against Kovalev or Stevenson .

  9. Darrell 09:29pm, 11/16/2013

    I think Rodriguez was angling for a Vince McMahon gig.  Can’t be bothered to make weight then looks to use every pound of his light-heavyweight frame to try & wrestle the life out of Ward…...glad he got made to look like the unskilled ape that he is.

    Rodriguez was a ring thug those first few rounds….Ward may have dished up his own brand of “illegalities” but they’re par for the course for such a well schooled boxer.  A punch headed south on occasions, a rub with the head here or there, the odd elbow following that left hook, a lazy thumb or rub with the tape, a whack to the back of the head, leaning with the forearm, holding & hitting…...a master class in ALL ways!  I appreciated it.

  10. EL BASTARDO MAGNIFICO 09:02pm, 11/16/2013

    And P.S Sir Fearless Editor I did see at the end of the fight HBO put up a donation comment and screen for contributions that could be sent, via the great folks supporting retired boxers over at Ring 10, to help Mago—what would have been nice is some kind of HBO “for every dollar that is contributed HBO will contribute…..??????????  I hope HBO is doing something substantial behind the scenes to help out—are the legally responsible? No. Are they morally responsible… I don’t know but Mago got $40,000, and after you slice off Promo, Manager, etc not much,not much at all for a fighter that put on one hell of an HBO show that night- adios amigo.

  11. EL BASTARDO MAGNIFICO 08:56pm, 11/16/2013

    Both guys fought dirty (lot of hitting each guys thigh hard on the opposite side of the ref with Andre mostly initiating that business—Jack was well right to take the points both ways and Andre should not have been preaching too much about Edwin being dirty—it was a two-way street in that regard)—and Edwin was simply not in the same skill set and Andre clearly does not have lights out power/remotely. He is a sharp sharp ring technician—NOW WHAT I DON’T LIKE IS HBO TRYING TO PRE-PROGRAM FIGHTS OR SUGGESTION OF SOMETHING THAT SHOULD NOT REALLY BE—WARD VS GOLOVKIN—NO, GGG IS A SMALL MIDDLE BY SIZE, ANDRE IS A BIG SUPER MIDDLE AND IF HE IS P4P NUMERO 2 THEN TAKE ON GUYS WITHIN SEVEN POUNDS OF YOU—STEVENSON, KOVALOV, HOPKINS ETC.—IN TERMS OF GGG WHAT HBO SHOULD BE DOING, INSTEAD OF MENTIONING THIS WARD VS GGG IS TELLING SERGIO FIGHT WHERE YOU WANT/WHO YOU WANT BUT AS THE CHAMPION FOR HBO YOU GET IN THE RING WITH GOLOVKIN—TWO NATURAL MIDDLEWEIGHTS FIGHTING FOR THE MIDDLE TITLE THANKS MUCH

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