Ontario, CA. Andre "S.O.G." Ward (26-0, 14 KO) took on Edwin "La Bomba" Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KO) at a catch weight; instead of at 168lbs for the WBA Super Middleweight Championship. Rodriguez was unable to make weight, but instead of losing their pay day and cancelling the fight, the two men decided to keep the event on by fighting at a catch. This was Edwin Rodriguez's first title shot and Roy Jones Jr. had an interesting comment that sort of foreshadowed the beginning of the fight.
Roy Jones, said in response to Jim Lampley's question, that perhaps, when a fighter is thrust into a situation they don't want to particularly get into, they do things like not make weight. In the pre-fight presentation, it was said that Rodriguez ran and sat in the sauna twice trying to drop the weight. Yet, his efforts were in vain and he was unable to make weight.
For me, not making weight isn't the most shocking thing, as it's happened before. And when the bell rang, he Rodriguez he went right after Ward and rightly so. Ward had just had surgery on a damaged rotator cuff in his right shoulder that had been damaged for a reported 16 years. So why not test his comfort and his will to fight a taller, bigger and stronger guy who hit hard. He pushed Ward, wrapped him up, and tried to bully him around in the first thirty seconds. It was a smart move. Ward came into the fight on a 14 month layoff after his knock out of Chad Dawson.
It would be an understatement to say this fight was rough and tumble. Even Ward's trainer Virgil Hunter said that Rodriguez was trying to disqualify himself after the end of the second round. Despite the agressiveness of Rodriguez, Ward landed accurate shots, especially a stiff left jab at will through the first two rounds, and the same continued through the third.
Coming into round four, the fight was part boxing - part wrestling with Rodriguez initiating much of the contact and holding between himself and Ward. About halfway into the fourth round, Edwin Rodriguez had Ward's neck firmly locked between his bicep and forearm, and appeared to be applying a guillotine choke; a submission technique in MMA. Ward for his part, swung wildly from a bent position, trying to land anything as he pushed Rodriguez to the ropes in an attempt to free himself. Tempers of both fighters flared, and as referee Jack Reiss ordered the action to stop and looked to break the fight up, punches kept being thrown. When Reiss finally got the action to stop he was livid; because not only had he been hit by a glancing blow, both fighters ignored his instructions. He called time and perhaps the most impressive moment occurred that I've seen from a referee in prize fight.
Reiss told the ring side judges that there were two intentional fouls. He took two points from Andre Ward. He then took two points from Edwin Rodriguez. He told ring side officials that he'd like to fine them both and that they could decide what the amount would be. He marched toward Rodriguez and told him to that he's instigating most of the holds and illegal action and to "knock this shit off." He walked over to Ward and told him to cut it out. He then warned both of them with their pay checks for the nights. I think Reiss' actions were terribly important at this point to ensure that the fight would remain clean and actually make it tot he final bell, barring a knockout. If fighters don't fight they don't get paid. If the fines are high enough, they could lose all of the money. Needless to say, neither man was willing to risk earning they're pay, win or lose.
From the rest of the fourth round on, the fight went the way the first three and a half went, without as much dirty tactic. Ward put on a clinical masterpiece, landing shots at will. The left jab was like a power punch that kept Rodriguez off balance all night. He was never able to mount an offense and Ward always got off first. There were some really great power shots and well strung combinations that Ward put together, and the only reason Rodriguez was still standing at the end was because of his size.
Max Kellerman put it, a light heavyweight or small cruiserweight. Many of the shots he took would have floored a smaller fighter. He outweighed Ward by more than 10lbs coming into the fight.
Yet, all of that was not the worst of the night for me. Andre Ward I believe put it best when questioned by Max Kellerman at the end of the fight. He said he believes that Edwin Rodriguez, "came to get lucky and not to win."
Edwin Rodriguez is a damned good fighter with a lot of power and a long strong jab. When he used it, he was able to put together at least a bit of offense in the fight, though they were few and a blue moon apart. I do think Ward is outside of Rodriguez's class and would have won the fight either way. But I think it would have been tougher night had Rodriguez come in to execute a game plan other than just winging it and hoping to "hit the lottery," as Ward put it. Ward probably wasn't going to knock him out either, no matter how sloppy he may have thrown a punch, and if he had boxed, he might have been able to open up Ward at some point and score a knock down. But I feel like after watching the pre-fight and seeing Rodriguez's performance in the ring that he's got some things going on internally that didn't allow him to put on his best performance.
And again, with all that, it was a great action fight that I scored 118-106 with Ward winning every round and losing two points to fouls. All ring side judges were pretty close with one scoring it the way I did, and one official giving Rodriguez two rounds and the other giving him one round. Unofficial HBO ring side judge Harold Lederman scored it the same way I did.
Tonight, Andre Ward cemented his place as the #2 pound for pound fighter in the world behind Floyd Mayweather Jr. I'd love to see them find a catch weight, though I think that never going to happen. But there is a possibility that Ward may see a knockout factory with great technique in Gennady Golovkin, who's just one weight class below at middleweight. Whatever happens, whoever gets the call has a tall order against Andre Ward.
Until next write...A.S. Washington bids you farewell!
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