For Andre Ward, Saturday night was far from just a return, it was a circus leading to his desired result. The ends may often justify the means, yet in this case that may not be true. Ward, who faced Edwin Rodriguez in a moderately packed Citizen’s Bank Arena in Ontario, CA, has become popular to hate. Ward is getting the same type of negativity that Bay Area sports teams get when they don’t win. He has been nitpicked to death, called boring, and ridiculed for his obsessive compulsive orientation to details.
Ward found himself in hot water going into the fight as Rodriguez wanted to pay for Andre Ward’s VADA testing (Volunteer Anti-Doping Agency) and Ward declined. Ward also ended an interview with the media when asked about drug testing. We have to learn a lot about drug testing since it has become a field that is, more or less, trying to get people in trouble. We all know that any good strength and conditioning coach will look for any method that is legal to gain an edge.
The fear with most drug testing agencies is that results could be doctored. It’s a system that has tentacles as slimly as an octopus, and people with agendas wishing to push their own name brand or those they have helped to the forefront. What was eerie this time was the way things went silent on both sides after Ward declined the test.
The weigh in was a debacle. Rodriguez came in at 170 lbs., two pounds over the limit, and appeared to not care much about making weight. Maybe Rodriguez knew that drained he would have no chance against Ward. Rodriguez had previously fought in the summer at a catch weight slightly above the super middleweight limit. From the missed weight came a new bag of worms. On the day of the there was another weigh in that was supposed to be 175 lbs. , but was pushed up to 180 lbs. Rodriguez, at 9:00AM made 179.8 lbs. This was just under the 180 lbs. and left him time to put on a bit more weight for the fight.
This is where things got odd. Ward was vocal with his displeasure with Rodriguez and wanted a stiffer penalty. Rumors were afloat of the fight being called off and an underlying tone coming from some in the Ontario Airport Hotel was that Rodriguez missed weight on purpose to come in bigger than Ward and rob Ward of his strength.
When it was all said and done it was nothing more than a boxing lesson provided by Andre Ward and despite both men being docked two points and warned, it was a simple display of Ward’s greatness. Whether people like him or not, Ward is slowly becoming the most dominate fighter in boxing and not unlike Mayweather, a man with a full head of hair could go bald trying to think of someone who could beat Ward. The options just don’t seem to be there. Triple G would be moving up in weight to fight Ward and though he is strong, Ward’s deceptive strength would be hard to question in that bout. At Light Heavyweight, the two top dogs Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, are relatively unproven still even after impressive wins – we have yet to see a long period of work to base an educated opinion.
As for Saturday night, Ward pushed Rodriguez’s head around the ring at will as detractors will say his fight was boring, each jab and counter left hook that landed spawned a roar of OOOOOs and Awwwwwws from the crowd. Ward was out of the ring for 14 months and came back better than ever in a fight I thought could be a trap fight. Not only did Ward defeat Rodriguez in every round, he punished him as if he was angry that Rodriguez had missed weight.
Ward made headlines earlier this week saying he wanted to end his career at heavyweight and his performance on Saturday night was a step in the right direction as he took on a much bigger man and never let him get off first. For Ward, this is just one fight to help him earn the respect of sarcastic boxing fans who have written him off as boring, smug, and whatever else. Ward is fighting like a man who knows that boxing wants history to be cruel to him and he steps into the ring to make examples of the men he fights. Rodriguez, much like Chad Dawson, had the displeasure of being there front and center to watch Ward’s mission statement unfold.
Even if you want to say Edwin Rodriguez was not on Ward’s level it does not explain how many people still favored Rodriguez going into the fight yet are so quick to discredit Ward afterwards. It is a thankless job being Andre Ward, a man who simply puts together classic boxing performances one after another and all the thanks he gets comes in the form of mockery from fans and pundits.