By Ryan Maquiñana
Andre Ward, the reigning super middleweight world champion, will face Edwin Rodriguez in a non-title affair Saturday night in Ontario, Calif. At 26-0 with 14 knockouts, the Oakland, Calif., native has risen to the second spot in the pound-for-pound rankings with his ability to dominate opponents and render them unable to perform at their best.
However, Ward acknowledged that the sport has evolved in recent years to where he feels his particular skill set might not be appreciated.
“I know boxing is in an era right now where if there's not blood and guts, it's not exciting -- quote on quote, exciting,” Ward told BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com. “But this is a sport where I've been prepared and trained to be a master, and to take away my opponent's strengths and exploit their weaknesses, then getting home to my wife and kids. That's what it boils down to.”
Ward has been criticized for a style that is effective but might not cater to the type of fight fan enamored with slugfests. But he probably doesn’t get enough credit for displaying true grit against Carl Froch in 2011 when he outdueled the Englishman with a broken hand for the second half of the fight. Ward also stood toe-to-toe with Chad Dawson last year and cut the descending light heavyweight champion down to size.
“I think that people who watch my fights (see that) I'm not a reluctant warrior,” Ward added. “I love banging on the inside. I love doing all those things. It's just going to be on our terms. We're just not going to go in there in a 50-50 fight where you swing, and I swing, and let's see what happens. That's disrespectful to the time, and the effort, and the years and the grind that my coaches put into the sport and his coaches before him taught him. That's just now how we get down.”
Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs), who did not make the 168-pound limit on Friday and enters the bout as the heavier man, will make Ward utilize his vast ring IQ once again on Saturday night. While there is no guarantee how the aesthetics of the bout will materialize, Ward expects one thing: to keep his pristine record intact.
“I don't know what type of fight you guys are looking for, and I can't even tell you how this fight is going to look,” Ward said. “But I can tell you that I've paid my dues in preparation for this fight to get my hand raised, and that's what's important.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine's Ratings Panel. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net or follow him on Twitter @RMaq28.