Andre Ward showed not a hint of ring rust as he dominated tough-chinned Edwin Rodriguez most thoroughly in Ontario, CA, and on HBO Saturday night. After 14 months away, Ward's timing didn't look off even a bit. It was chippy bout early, and it looked like it might go off the rails, but the fighters settled down some. Rodriguez looked to land haymakers, but he couldn't get a bead on the pound for pound ace, a pugilist-specialist whose power jab and left hook was a problem from the get go for the loser. After twelve rounds, the decision was a no brainer, and happily, the judges didn't drop the ball. They scored it 118-106, 117-107, 116-108 for the Cali boxer, who fans will hope will next pursue a mega-bout against Gennady Golovkin, or a showdown with a bomber at 175, Sergey Kovalev or Adonis Stevenson, perhaps.
According to CompuBox, Ward went 217-526 to 83-389 for the loser.
After, Ward spoke to Max Kellerman. The victor said that Edwin didn't really come to win, but that he wanted to get lucky. Did the loser not earn his respect? Ward said it was unprofessional to not try and make weight, and he used that to motivate himself. Ward was asked about Edwin's tactics, and Ward lauded the ref for cleaning things up. He said he was careful when he hurt him because he knew Edwin was still wanting to get lucky. Ward didn't call out anyone afterwards. He said the fans kept him afloat during his hiatus.
Rodriguez left the ring after the decision.
The WBA super middle champ Ward (26-0 with 14 KOs entering; age 29; from Oakland, CA) was 167.8 pounds. Rodriguez (24-0 with 16 K0s; age 28; from the Dominican Republic, living in Worcester, Mass.) didn't make the super middleweight limit, so he knew going in he couldn't win the title even if he beat Ward.
There was pre-fight drama on Friday, as Rodriguez was two pounds over weight. He couldn't lose any more, so he took a cut to his purse, and needed to be under 180 pounds on Saturday morning. He just made it, hitting 179.8 this morning. Team Ward threatened to pull out of the fight if the WBA's rules weren't abided by, and Rodriguez was only deducted 20% of his purse, not the 35-45% their rules call for if certain circumstances are met. But the show went on…
Edwin said his body gave up, and on Friday, he tried twice to sweat out weight, running, and in the sauna, but he couldn't do it. He told the HBO crew, though, an hour and a half before the weigh in, that he was in good shape to make weight.
In the first, Ward looked in fine form, though he was away from the ring for 14 months after hurting his right shoulder, and getting surgery. He hurt the shoulder when he was age 12, and it has been his Achilles heel. The rotator cuff was torn, he said, and he made the left hand better to compensate. Both hands looked stiff in round one, though there was a bunch of holding and grappling. Ward's jab was his best weapon. Edwin came out aggressive, and trainer Ronnie Shields said he liked the work.
In the second, the ref Jack Reiss told the men to “relax” and quit grappling. Lefts inside worked well for Ward as did his jab. A left hook from Edwin landed clean, and then they went back to grappling. Trainer Virgil Hunter said after that Edwin was “trying to disqualify himself.”
In the third, a hard jab by Ward impressed. His timing was improving. Ward's jab to the body was clever and sharp. Was he pulling away, perhaps? Ward went 28-45 to 7-35 according to CompuBox in that round.
In the fourth, the fighters grappled and the ref got hit trying to break them up. Edwin had Ward in a headlock and that irked Ward. Reiss yelled at Edwin, and called him an instigator. He warned both men, and took two points from each man. He actually went to the lead commisoner, and asked that both men be fined. Ward landed a nasty jab after that hubbub. Ward was leaping in with left hooks by now. Edwin stuck out his tongue a few times, but that was his best answer.
In the fifth, a left hook by Ward landed heavy at 1:55. Edwin locked another headlock in on Ward, who had Edwin's right eye swelling. When Edwin missed it was often by a wide margin. Trainer Hunter asked for “the Floyd straight” right after the round. He asked Ward to remain balanced, as well.
In the sixth, Ward grinned as Edwin missed with two shots. The champ was so accurate though Edwin never looked buzzed. Shields told him he was behind, bigtime, after the round. In the seventh, it was a mellower round, until a Ward combo exploded on Edwin's head at 55 seconds. Rights to the body by Ward had to be bothersome. In the eighth, Ward got going with combos. The power jab kept on landing clean. Edwin kept on throwing the occasional looping bomb.As usual, Ward was master of distance. He landed from outside and inside, and then smartly blunted his foe by crowding him.
In the ninth, Edwin hung in there but Ward dictated the round with his jab. Hunter said he was “boxing a masterpiece” after the round. In the tenth, a left hook by Ward had the crowd buzzing. Ward's underrated ability to use his feet to get the angles he wanted was in evidence. Ward was the same dominant boxer in the 11th and 12th. A cut formed on Edwin's left eye late in the round and Reiss asked him if he wanted to continue. Yes, he said. We went to the cards.
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