The November 16th edition of HBO’s World Championship Boxing broadcast featured a single televised fight, with the honors given to the title bout between Andre Ward (27-0, 14 knockouts) and Edwin Rodriguez (24-1, 16 knockouts). There has been no shortage of drama leading up to and even during the fight. Saturated with everything from monetary disputes to fight location and even to contracted weights, it was no surprise to see that these two weren’t too fond of each other come fight time. Add in the fact that Ward hadn’t stepped into the bright lights of the boxing ring for 14-months and one could see that Rodriguez was only adding fuel to an already stoked fire.
One of the things that was most apparent at the sound of the opening bell was just how big a fighter Rodriguez really is. Unable to make the contracted 168-pound weight limit, Rodriguez looks to be a full weight-class (or two) heavier than Ward. Still, Ward was determined to make a statement and fighting a much bigger opponent was nothing new at this point (See his fight with Chad Dawson).
At the start of the first round, Rodriguez was quick to charge at Ward in hopes of catching him off-guard early. Instead, the two clinch up immediately and set a pattern that would soon become the story of most of the fight. Rodriguez seemed determined to force Ward to fight on the inside, but Ward was all to willing to oblige the challenger as he quickly began landing some sneaky shots to the body of Rodriguez. Even when they eventually separated, Ward kept with the tact while mixing in a stiff jab that was giving Rodriguez problems early. Rodriguez tried to respond and close the round by throwing power shots, but thanks to Ward’s movement none managed to find their mark.
The two fighters established a rinse and repeat type approach to their offense in the early rounds, and Rodriguez’ constant clinching was the main component. The two would clinch, and when they would separate Ward managed to catch Rodriguez with a jab as he would lunge in. Rodriguez’ response was to simply throw more punches but this did nothing but feed into Ward’s game of counter-punching and catching Rodriguez as he came in.
Amidst the volley of power and body shots thrown by both fighters, the wrestling match between them was beginning to stall the action of the fight. This became enough of a problem that ,referee, Jack Reese went in to separate them, and as the two kept fighting, the Reese was grazed with a Rodriguez punch. This led to two points being deducted from each fighter for “unsportsmanlike” conduct, and with the looming threat of disqualification over them both did their best to avoid committing any other (obvious) fouls. Still, both fighters remained aggressive, allowing Ward to continue picking apart the brawling-type gameplan that Rodriguez was so keen on employing against the champion.
As the fight went on, Ward’s confidence only grew while Rodriguez slowly crumbled. Showcasing his penchant for slick footwork and head movement, Ward proved that he hadn’t missed a step following such a lengthy layoff. Rodriguez was left playing the bull to Ward’s matador, and for the most part, this left Rodriguez open for counters often and throughout each of the rounds.
With each passing round, Ward’s grip on the reigns of momentum only tightened. Rodriguez continued with the same offense that had done him no favors up to that point, and it was in the tenth round where he finally seemed to stray from the tactics that had been ineffective against Ward. Rodriguez’ new tactic was to simply instigate a shoot-out in the middle of the ring as he hoped to land the type of shot that would send Ward crumbling to the canvas. Instead it was Ward who managed to land a looping left hook that managed to nearly drop Rodriguez, but amazingly he stood his ground to survive the round.
Things didn’t get much better for Rodriguez in the final rounds, and the consistency in Ward’s left hook and right jab combo wasn’t helping. Although a bit more patient, Rodriguez kept on in his all-action tactic against Ward. This allowed the champ to take an almost cruise control-like approach to his opponent as he managed to land his jab at will against the challenger. Aside from an accidental headbutt that occurred in the last minute, Ward closed the final round landing another jab that sent Rodriguez’ head violently snapping back.
Confusing two point deductions aside, the final scorecards largely told the story of how this fight went. The three judges at ring-side scored the bout as (118-107), (117-106), and (116-108) all in favor of Andre Ward.
Edwin Rodriguez certainly tried to make the most of his shot, but unfortunately his shot came against one of the most technically sound and defensive minded fighters of this generation. With weight troubles and the super middleweight division officially behind him, here’s to hoping Rodriguez can recover and continue finding opportunities for success at light-heavyweight.
As for Ward, there’s still no telling whether or not he will ever reach the superstar level he so desperately craves. Yes, he’s absolutely dominated his weight class and proven to be one of the most supremely talented fighters in recent memory, but time has shown that it takes more than talent to win over the public. Unfortunately, a big mouth is just about the only thing Andre Ward doesn’t have in his arsenal. Still, with such a dominant stretch of victories behind him it’s only a matter of time before Ward finally receives the recognition he deserves. At this point only two questions remain:
1.) Will Ward be the first fighter in recent memory to reach superstar-like levels in the sport thanks to his talents in the ring rather than potential troubles outside of it?
2.) Would a rematch with Carl Froch really be all Ward needs to reach the pay-days he feels he has earned?
There’s just no telling just which answers go with each questions yet but one thing is for sure, as long as Ward keeps winning we’ll keep watching.