The Return of Andre Ward

By Robert Ecksel on November 15, 2013
The Return of Andre Ward
Andre Ward proved himself in the amateurs. He has also proven himself in the pros.

No matter what Ward does, however skilled, however effective, however beautiful to watch, it will never be enough for some…

Saturday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, WBA “super” super middleweight champion Andre Ward (26-0, 14 KOs), from Oakland, California,  defends his “title” title against Edwin Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs), from Worcester, Massachusetts,  by way of Dominican Republic, in a fight broadcast live on HBO World Championship Boxing at 10:00 pm.

It has been 14 months since Andre Ward has stepped in the ring, 14 long months for some, 14 not-long-enough months for others.

Ward is one of the fight game’s master boxers. In another time, another era, being a master boxer meant something. But in our time, our era, when appreciation of pure boxing has been usurped by love of pure slugging, Ward, along with Guillermo Rigondeaux, Bernard Hopkins, and even Floyd Mayweather to some extent (whose ability to sell himself trumps his methodical, scientific beatdowns), is looked upon with scorn. Rather than celebrate his return to active duty, The Return of Andre Ward is for the most part treated with indifference.

In a way that makes sense, especially in a culture where nonsense is the norm. Granted, Ward is not a knockout artist, something he shares with his aforementioned peers. He has also been known to use an errant elbow or head on occasion. While those extraneous body parts ought to have no place in boxing, they are part of every boxer’s toolbox, whether they choose to use them or not. We think no less of Harry Greb, Fritzie Zivic, Sandy Saddler, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Abner Mares or Timothy Bradley for employing similar tactics when they felt they could get away with it.

But Andre Ward is a special case. He has not won the hearts and minds of fickle fight fans, possibly for want of trying. His sober personality, smart without being aggressive, is not to everyone’s taste. And his S.O.G. self-righteousness has been known to rub some people the wrong way. Of course those who dislike Ward most have done nothing to modify their personalities. But to paraphrase an old blues song, “If it wasn’t for double-standards, I wouldn’t have no standards at all.”

Pugilistically speaking, Ward was America’s last big winner in men’s Olympic boxing, having won a gold medal in Athens in 2004. He proved himself in the amateurs. He has proven himself in the pros. Among his 26 wins are victories over Chad Dawson in 2012, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham in 2011, Sakio Bika and Allan Green in 2010, and Mikkel Kessler in 2009. Few fighters fighting today can boast such an accomplished list of victims. Ward never ducked anyone. He cleaned out the division. What more is a prizefighter supposed to do?

Ward will do what he always does when he faces Edwin Rodriguez. He will study his opponent with cool calculation, as if he were a specimen under glass. Using impeccable balance, oblique angles, the patience of Job, and a ring IQ bordering on genius, he will sting his man with punches and gradually wear him down. It may take 12 rounds, it may take less, but eventually Ward will erode Rodriguez’s confidence, his desire to fight, his will to engage, his belief that this is a fight he can win.

But Rodriguez is no slouch, not by a long shot. He too is undefeated. He’s a legitimate opponent for a comeback fight after over a year of inactivity. He says this is his time. His victories, while significant, especially his first round stoppage of Denis Grachev in July, are over fighters not in Andre Ward’s class. Rodriguez will put up a good fight; he always puts up a good fight. But the deck is stacked against him. The deck, however, is stacked against Andre Ward as well. His hand will be raised in the end, but no matter what Ward does, however skilled, however effective, however beautiful to watch, it will never be enough for some.

The weight is over

At the weigh-in the day before the fight, Rodriguez failed to make weight. Despite having nutrition guru Victor Conte in his corner, La Bomba bombed out on the scale, coming in two pounds over the super middleweight limit of 168 pounds.

This has happened before, too many times to too many fighters to mention or count, and it not only makes Rodriguez look bad, it makes boxing look bad as well.

What was billed as a title fight is a title fight no more. In addition, Rodriguez has been fined $200,000, or 20 percent of his million-dollar purse, with half going to Ward and half to the California State Athletic Commission.

What with rehydration, the miracles of modern science, and boxing’s unerring flexibility, this rule change about weighing in the day before a fight needs to be reversed before someone gets seriously hurt—again. Until such time as that does (or doesn’t) happen, the only person who has been hurt by this turn of events is Rodriguez, whose reputation for being responsible has taken it on the chin.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

WCB 11/16/13: Ward vs. Rodriguez (HBO Boxing)

2013-07-13 Edwin Rodriguez vs Denis Grachev

Andre Ward In Ring Demonstration

Andre "SOG" Ward vs Edwin Rodriguez talk about their WBA Championship fight.

Andre Ward vs Chad Dawson (HD) [FULL FIGHT]

12-17-11 Andre Ward.vs.Carl Froch

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  1. NYIrish 05:14am, 11/17/2013

    Rodriguez shows up overweight and out of shape. Who manages him? Did Ronnie Shields train him for this fight or just meet him in the corner the night of the fight? I’ve seen a long history of fights where Shields talks to fighters between rounds that he has no control of. He talks, they ignore him and stand up to another three minutes of pounding. Delivering a fighter in the condition of Rodriguez to an alleged championship fight is unsafe for the fighter, unfair to the fans and represents the worst of the absentee landlords of boxing.

  2. Jack 07:05pm, 11/16/2013

    Thanx Mike, there are good guys involved in boxing that don’t want to see a fighter treated like a piece of meat. I know the writers on this website fit that criteria. Thanx again.

  3. Mike Schmidt 04:53pm, 11/16/2013

    Great comments Jack—and the latest which amongst other things, Archie Moore mind foook style, Andre Ward’s lawyer is demanding that the WBA adhere to their rule that when a boxer is overweight by the stipulated amount ( which is a go in this case) and does not attempt to lose the weight in the mandatory two hour bust your balls period, he must lose 45% of his purse amount. In this case Sir Edwin did not even show for the second scale attempt!!! Unlikely they will stick it to him to that amount but I hope he has a strong mind because for most guys all this sheeeet got a play on you while you otherwise would be settling into that pre-fight one item on my mindset only thing—great comments on the sweat bag suit and 0 on!!!!!

  4. Jack 01:14pm, 11/16/2013

    One more thing while I’m on the soapbox. One of the dumbest things I have experienced in boxing, is the use of a plastic or rubber suit while training. Besides resulting in only a very temporary water weight loss, it can actually be very dangerous to your health. I have seen guys use these things days on end thinking they are actually losing weight, yeah, until you re-hydrate, “just brilliant”!!!! Here is a link to good info if you don’t believe me.    There is no substitute for doing something the correct way, like actually achieving the results you started out to attain. Hence, the reason you may want to hire a nutritionist or personal trainer for the biggest fight of your life or to maintain a high level you may have already achieved. For the guys who really can’t afford to do that at this point in their career, there are tons of accurate information available to you for free, if you know where to look!!!

  5. kid vegas 10:55am, 11/16/2013

    Ward by late stoppage

  6. kid vegas 10:50am, 11/16/2013

    Ward by late stoppage

  7. Jack 10:34am, 11/16/2013

    It is UNBELIEVABLE that something like this could happen to a fighter, that enough “supposed” responsible people are making money off of and let this happen to him. Ted, if you know his manager, you need to tell him how derelict he is in his responsibility to his fighter. There is enough blame to go around to a number of people, ANYONE who is making money off of him!!!!! What a sad situation!!!! Does anybody think or expect that he will put a 100% effort into this fight? Edwin is not without blame, but the bulk of responsibility lies with the people who are making money off of him!!!!! Let me give these intellectually bankrupt individuals some good advice on how to manage a fighter who may have problems making weight for the biggest fight and opportunity of his life. You hire a nutritionist or personal trainer for 6-8 weeks of training at a fraction of the cost of the penalty, to guarantee that the fighter makes weight and can still fight for the title. Unbelievable!!!!!!

  8. Clarence George 04:29am, 11/16/2013

    Never occurred to me that Rodriguez would be so arrogant and contemptuous…hope he gets his ass kicked.

  9. Mike Schmidt 11:22pm, 11/15/2013

    All kidding aside—I love the productions that HBO does for boxing dating back—those Legendary Night Series they did still give me goosebumps—I hope, being serious here, that they do have a financial penalty clause in their contracts, directly against the boxer who does not make weight to an ensuing cancellation of a Title Fight designation. I think that is fair enough when a boxer has put his name on the dotted line a few months previous and agreed to do his job. As an aside, and here we go again to health issues, same day weigh arguments etc,—I very much hope that Edwin has not depleted himself to a point of risk and lets all he puts on a really good show.

  10. Mike Schmidt 08:21pm, 11/15/2013

    Non weight—forfeit and HBO considering clause changes—as reported by Rick Reeno for boxingscene—wouldn’t want to upset the “Code of Ethics” for the boys over at BWAA hee hee

  11. Clarence George 08:16pm, 11/15/2013

    Religious?  Surprising, given his blasphemous moniker.  You know, I’ve never referred to him by that nickname, not even the initials…and I ain’t gonna.

  12. Mike Schmidt 08:16pm, 11/15/2013

    Edwin did not make weight, forfeited $200,000—ie big pay cut, does not fight for the title and his Promoter, the ever level headed Lou DiBella advises that it is unprofessional. Amazing, but hey this is boxing. Now on the business side we learn that HBO apparently has no penalty clause of its own on these things—as of yet but sure to come. Well, somewhere up the corporate ladder some lucky suited HBO fooker, that does not give a shit about boxing will do a year end…. because bottom line oh ya baby he cares about that part ...“I am sorry guys, can you run this thru me again, we pay a huge fee for something called a TITLE FIGHT, that is some kind of big marketing bonus for us, and then some athlete can’t do us the courtesy over a few months to make this weight thing by a few pounds, and he has to take a pay cut, but that part does not involve us…” Can we just run this by me again, I don’t get this boxing thing ....hee hee hee hee. Ya gotta be kidding this lawyer guy here really ya gotta be.

  13. Ted 06:14pm, 11/15/2013

    Yes, Andre is very accessible and decent to talk to. He is religious and if he senses you might be, he really warms up. All in all, he is very nice outside the ring, but very shy.

  14. Mike Schmidt 05:03pm, 11/15/2013

    PS—Ward on weight, Edwin not. Ward says Edwin big big big month before the fight and using the sweat bag suit—that ain’t professionally good for the biggest fight and HBO stage of your career—hope it does not hurt him in the late rounds—IF IT GOES THAT LONG

  15. Mike Schmidt 05:00pm, 11/15/2013

    There is an aura about Andre almost a feeling of a condescending attitude towards the rest of the folks—in how he carries himself and I think it affects his viewership aside from whatever you think of his style. It is unfortunate. Having spoken to the man a few times in hotel lobbies I can tell you he is very approachable a real gentlemen, and down to earth. For me there was certainly nothing boring about the way he crunched Bad Chad. The other problem is perceived dirty tactics—ie Kessler fight etc—the elbows, the head etc etc. Bradley had the same rep and you don’t seem to hear much about it anymore (although he sure started the Marquez fight by handing out a good intentional head bonker)

  16. Jack 03:47pm, 11/15/2013

    Very good perspective Robert, Ward is not as popular as he should be given his skill level, unfortunately. This same trend exists in MMA also. There are MMA fighters that have excellent BJJ skills but you will be lucky to see any of them, if the guy has decent power and striking skills, because: That’s what the fans want to see, not 2 guys on the mat jockeying for position. I have mentioned this before, “This mentality is nothing new”, I believe the Christians were thrown to the lions and the Gladiators fought to the death? Back to boxing, Ward and his corner are very smart. They make adjustments on the fly or resort to plan B, C or D from a predetermined and practiced strategy. More teams should learn from them. The end result is: Andre completely out classes his opponents.

  17. Clarence George 02:44pm, 11/15/2013

    Ward by unanimous decision.

  18. Ted 01:41pm, 11/15/2013

    Well I know Edwin and his manager so this will be difficult for me to watch as he is stepping up about as high as you can go. He is a great kid out of Worcester and his manger is an attorney. Both are very gracious and decent. For Edwin to get this opportunity is a great thing for local Worcester MA boxing which has a rich history. Hopefully, if he gives a good showing, he can get more big paydays.

    His strengths are a great body attack and solid and late power. He gets better as the fight progresses. Though his first round stoppage of Denis Grachev was a shocker. Edwin will come to win. He will come to fight. It’s his nature.

    But Ward is Ward and he is probably the second best fighter in the world. And that says it all.

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