SAN DIEGO, November 16, 2013 – Super middleweight champion and part-time HBO analyst Andre Ward woke up in California Saturday morning not entirely sure if he’d be boxing tonight at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California.
His opponent, Edwin Rodriguez, failed to make weight Friday, coming in two pounds over the 170 pound limit. The California State Athletic Commission gives a fighter two hours to make a second attempt at the scale. Rodriguez declined.
Thanks to a deal with Ward and his team, Rodriguez was given one final chance to weigh-in Saturday morning. As long as he came in under 180 pounds, the fight would be on. He got in by a mere 3.2 ounces (two-tenths of a pound), but fighters and fans have a fight. It airs at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.
Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs) lost the opportunity to take the WBA super middleweight title held by Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) if he wins. Rodriguez was docked 20 percent of his $1 million purse for the fight. Half of the penalty goes directly to Ward, which brings his take up to $2 million even. The other half goes to the California State Athletic Commission.
Rodriguez’ promoter Lou DiBella has been a critic of fighters who can’t make weight, and he expressed disappointment and annoyance about the situation, saying to ESPN that he had apologized to Andre Ward, his team, and HBO.
For Ward’s part, he is coming back to the ring after being out 14 months due to shoulder surgery. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the 29-year-old Ward. While no one doubts Ward’s skills with his undefeated record, he carries the stigma of being an unexciting boxer to watch due to his tactical, workmanlike approach.
Ward surprised many people when he put on an entertaining fight against Chad Dawson in September 2012, scoring a tenth round TKO. It energized fans who couldn’t wait to see him get back in the ring. After the Dawson fight, Ward said he knew he had to kill his reputation as a buzz kill in the ring. “I got a bad rap early in my career. Finishing guys off is the last piece of the puzzle, and I’m on my way to doing that. I feel like against the better competition, I rise to the occasion,” observed Ward.
He planned to fight Kelly Pavlik in January, but injured his shoulder during training. It was a nagging injury that Ward said he’d had since his young amateur days. The delay for surgery meant Ward only got in front of the fans while offering color commentary for other fights.
In the meantime, Rodriguez won the four-man Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super Four tournament with a first round stoppage of light heavyweight Denise Grachev. He felt ready to take on Ward and try his luck making it to the next level of boxing. To lose the opportunity when you’re at the brink of making some real money and a real name beyond hardcore boxing fans, it’s when the stakes are among the highest a fighter ever faces. Rodriguez had little choice but to agree to Ward’s terms.
Ward needed this fight just as badly as the challenger Rodriguez. He can’t lose his title due to Rodriguez failing to make weight. He can test his rehabilitated shoulder in this contest and with his vast array of defensive skills, he doesn’t need to let Rodriguez get anywhere close to him. Rodriguez must press Ward to have any chance of landing decent punches. In the unlikely event Ward loses, it can be pinned on the shoulder or the weight issues.
Whether Rodriguez will be in a weakened state because of his weight problem will become apparent during the fight. If Ward doesn’t take care of business early, Rodriguez may not have the stamina to last the entire fight.
Ward’s real risk of defeat comes from the fans if he puts on another snoozefest tactical hit and run fight. Ward may feel he’s got a bad rap for being a boring fighter, but he earned it. He had the right idea taking a few risks against Chad Dawson. Bernard Hopkins took the same approach a few weeks ago against Karo Murat. Hopkins got fans excited for the first time in years, even calling for a fight with Floyd Mayweather. Ward needs to generate a little of this excitement, or risk remaining a ho-hum draw no matter where critics put him on the pound-for-pound list.
See Andre Ward vs. Edwin Rodriguez in “The Return” on HBO Saturday, November 16 at 10 p.m. ET. Following the fight, a new episode of “24/7: Pacquiao vs. Rios” airs.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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