by Cliff Rold
He doesn’t knock many guys out.
World Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward does everything else instead. He beats guys up, befuddles them, and leaves them looking frustrated by any night’s end. It might not always be pretty, but it is typically physical, intense, and highly skilled.
With a precise jab, educated inside work, and an assortment of head, shoulder, hand, and foot feints, Ward took Edwin Rodriguez to school. How high were the marks he earned?
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Ward A; Rodriguez B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Ward B; Rodriguez B+/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Ward A; Rodriguez B/Post: A; C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Ward A; Rodriguez B/Post: A; B
Rodriguez lost his chance to be a champion on the scales on Friday. He lost every round in the ring the next day. That would have happened if he’d made weight. There are levels in the boxing game.
Ward is on the highest of them.
Rodriguez will make for good fights moving forward, presumably at Light Heavyweight and, matched right, may even end up with a belt. There’s no shame in losing to Ward. Better fighters had tried and failed before him.
To the good fortune of fans, the fight got more in line with the Marquis of Queensbury rules after an ugly start. Referee Jack Reiss was theatrical in his approach, and a little ticked off by a shot that clipped him. Deducting two points from each man in the fourth for flagrant fouling both ways, he made himself the story for a moment.
He didn’t have to again. There was still plenty of trench warfare, but with the threat of a disqualification looming, the fight settled down and moved out of the alley. Forced to box more, Rodriguez was at a loss. Ward chipped away, landing hard left hooks as the fight wore one. Rodriguez had more than enough beard to handle them.
He even had the heart to fire back in spots to keep things honest.
Winning a round was another story.
The fight was one sided enough to begin wondering what Ward could do to find a challenge well before the bell rang to end the night. His options are somewhat lacking.
The fight HBO seems to want to build towards, in a fashion akin to the way they built Roy Jones-James Toney a generation ago, is a showdown with Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin. Golovkin, currently being quite openly ducked by lineal Middleweight king Sergio Martinez who wants to see if he can get a big money clash with a smaller star first, can add to the event by doing what he does best. As the big puncher continues to lay people out, he builds the mystique no other opponent for Ward at 168 currently has.
Getting Martinez, and making his supremacy clear at Middleweight first, would only make a Ward showdown bigger. Add in their history as 2004 Olympians and the fight has all sorts of fun angles.
It’s not coming that soon.
In the meantime, Ward followers will probably have to keep their eyes on next Saturday’s clash between unified titlist Carl Froch and undefeated George Groves. That interesting domestic clash in the UK could set the stage for a Ward-Froch rematch. Froch’s success since his loss to Ward in the Super Six finals has earned him the right to try and avenge the loss, though he’d be an underdog. Ward and Froch are far and away the two best at Super Middleweight and it’s the fight that should happen in the moment if Froch wins next weekend.
That won’t be easy. Groves is a live threat.
Of course, there is also the question of moving up. Ward seems content to remain and reign at 168 but there are some intriguing threats a class up. Lineal champion Adonis Stevenson has exceptional speed and power and underrated boxing ability. Titlist Sergey Kovalev is a methodical wrecking ball with solid fundamentals. Stevenson-Kovalev is the leader on the HBO wish list.
The winner of that potential clash would be a big threat to Ward. He’d likely have to move up to face it. A Chad Dawson-esque drag down the scale doesn’t look realistic there.
So, there will be options. There just aren’t tons of savory ones right this second. Ward doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere soon, so time is on his side.
Report Card Picks 2013: 50-24
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]