By Keith Idec
Andre Ward hasn’t fought since he dominated Chad Dawson in September 2012, but the undefeated Ward isn’t concerned about ring rust affecting him later tonight against Edwin Rodriguez.
“I’m not worried about the 14-month layoff,” Ward said. “I’m excited to get back. I’m sharp. I’m ready. I’m going to be better than ever. Like Floyd Mayweather said, ‘We’ve been here before. This is not my first rodeo.’ ”
That said, Ward has fought just once in the nearly two years since he comfortably out-pointed England’s Carl Froch to win Showtime’s “Super Six World Boxing Classic” in December 2011 in Atlantic City. He switched networks, from Showtime to HBO, after defeating Froch (31-2, 22 KOs), and his 10th-round technical knockout victory over Dawson (31-3, 17 KOs, 2 NC) didn’t come until nearly nine months later in Oakland, Calif.
The WBA super middleweight champion wasn’t able to build on the momentum he established by defeating Dawson because he underwent surgery on his right shoulder, which caused the cancelation of a fight against since-retired former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. The 29-year-old Ward later initiated a bid to terminate his contract with longtime promoter Dan Goossen, but Ward lost that legal battle and Goossen remains Ward’s promoter.
While frustrating, Ward’s injury and promotional problem ultimately might’ve benefitted the 2004 Olympic gold medalist because his body feels refreshed following an extended break from boxing.
“It’s very difficult,” Ward said. “You never want to be off. You never want to be on the sidelines, especially against your will. The silver lining is that I’ve been in this sport 20 years. I’m a max-effort type person when I train and prepare, so I think my body thanked me for it. My body got a chance to relax from combat, even though I was still working. That was the silver lining. It’s very difficult, but it’s my story.”
Ward (26-0, 14 KOs), of Hayward, Calif., is a 14-1 favorite over the undefeated Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs), of Worcester, Mass., as their 12-round fight for Ward’s WBA 168-pound championship approaches. HBO, for which Ward works as an analyst, will televise the fight from Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. (10 p.m. ET/PT).
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.