Super-middleweight champion Andre Ward returns to action this Saturday night to face challenger Edwin Rodriguez at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, California.
The bout will be televised live on HBO Championship Boxing.
Ward was last spotted in the ring 14 months ago destroying then-light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson. He was scheduled to defend his title against Kelly Pavlik last January until injuring his right shoulder in training.
Now fully recovered, Ward, 29, the WBA and RING titleholder, is anxious to get back in the ring.
“I still have my hunger and fire to be the best in the world,” said Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) during a press conference last month. ”The situation (the injury) really helped from a personal standpoint. It took me to another level.”
Rodriguez, 28, can crack with both hands. His most impressive victory was his last one. Four months ago, Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs) knocked out durable light-heavyweight contender Denis Grachev in the opening stanza. The victory catapulted Rodriguez to the number three position in the WBA super-middleweight ratings.
Ward shocked many boxing fans in 2009 when he stopped heavily favored Mikkel Kessler in round 11 during Showtime’s Super Six tournament. A year later, he dethroned WBC champion Carl Froch. That victory earned the 2004 Olympic gold medalist the top spot in the tourney.
Rodriguez told Joe Habeeb of boxingvoice.com that Ward bends the rules.
“Andre Ward is definitely a dirty fighter,” said Rodriguez.” He is a fighter that is trained to fight dirty. That’s a dirty fighter. Somebody that continues to smash his head into their opponent by walking right towards their opponent, the little things that he does are on purpose.
“The head butts that he creates are on purpose. I have seen him in the Bika fight throw elbows and stuff like that, so he is a fighter that is trained to fight dirty, and I can’t allow that to get to my head,” Rodriguez said.
Ward has heard these allegations before.
“It’s funny he said that about being a dirty fighter because we’ve been talking about him being a dirty fighter lately too,” said Ward. “He’s got a tendency to hit behind the head. He throws these wild right hands. He’ll rabbit punch a guy. We’ll definitely bring this up to the referee because that’s not within the rules.”
Rodriguez can occasionally get sloppy. His punches are wide. Ward is a master of both the inside and outside game. He's shown an uncanny ability to adapt to whatever style is presented.
A few years ago, Allan Green believed that Ward was soft on the inside. In round three of their encounter, he backed Ward into the ropes. By the end of the round, after eating half dozen uppercuts and inside punches, he glanced at Ward with a perplexed look on his face.
The first few rounds could be competitive. Rodriguez has the longer arms. He may surprise with his power, but he’s never faced a fighter with Ward’s versatility.
By round three, Ward will begin to sting Rodriguez. His quicker hands will keep the challenger off balance. He’ll step inside and bang Rodriguez with short, clean shots.
Ward will continue to break Rodriguez down and stop him in round 11.
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