By Robert Morales
Andre Ward thought about the question for a second, then talked about getting on with his career while still fighting under Dan Goossen and his Goossen Tutor Promotions banner. Earlier this year Ward filed for arbitration with the California State Athletic Commission in an attempt to free himself of his promotional contract with Goossen.
One of Ward's beefs was that Goossen was allegedly curtailing his career because Goossen did not include him, co-promoter Antonio Leonard and manager James Prince in discussions with HBO regarding his future. Goossen won in arbitration in late June, and his contract with Ward remains intact. Now, the two still have to work together.
"You've gotta find a way to put it behind you," said Ward, who Saturday will fight for the first time in 14 months when he defends his super middleweight title against Edwin Rodriguez at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. (on HBO). "And it's the old adage, 'It's not personal, it's business.' "
That doesn't mean Ward is happy about the way things went. Especially since some of the stuff he saw written apparently insinuated that he was an ingrate.
"I think the story kind of got spun a certain way after the fact because any time a fighter stands up for himself and says, 'Hey, there's a problem here,' and it goes to a commission or it goes to a higher court, it's always looked at like it's a bad thing for the fighter," Ward said. "Like, you know, 'This ungrateful guy who is trying to get away for the wrong reason.'
"But it's behind us right now and I don't want to get too much into it. But I just know that if I did that, it was for reasons that I felt strong about, reasons that I really believed in. That being said, though I disagreed with the commission's decision, that's neither here nor there. It's the past and we put our heads together and we get back to business. It's just something you have to do."
Goossen and Ward and his team were all at the same place Tuesday - Warzone Boxing Gym in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. - for a media workout. When Ward arrived, Goossen went over to greet him. They were cordial, and Goossen said he is hopeful that what's past stays there. He intimated it's best for all concerned.
"Look, I mean, I never like to see anything come between what I think was a great relationship and will be a great relationship moving forward, but it did and I believe we're all past it now," Goossen said. "And all I want to do is get Andre back in the ring, let him get back into the fans' and the viewers' (minds) again."
"There's an old saying, out of sight, out of mind. And he's been out of the ring for 14 months and it's hard to keep that fan base while you're not out there participating. So the key right now is to get Andre back in that ring and let the fans see him again. I believe that will take care of a lot of ills. When you're not performing and you're used to doing it since you've been nine years old, sitting on the sidelines has to hurt. I know it does for us as a promoter, and I'm sure it's triple for him."
Virgil Hunter, Ward's trainer, also was on hand Tuesday. He didn't come out and hammer Goossen, but his comments suggested that Team Ward still feels very strongly that it should have won that case against Goossen.
"Just because one certain thing turned out one particular way, doesn't mean it turned out the right way, that it was the right thing," Hunter said. "He (Ward) felt in his heart he was right with the stance that he made, I felt that he was right, the evidence said he was right.
"But, you know, sometimes there are alliances in this business that can contradict that. So in our hearts and in our minds and souls, we can live with that because we know deep down inside the truth. ... I'm proud of him how he handled that. And stay tuned."
'La Bomba' stoked about his big chance
Rodriguez, of Worcester, Mass. via the Dominican Republic, has never had a shot at a major title. Not only is he getting that Saturday, it's coming against one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Rodriguez is stoked, to say the least.
"This is a great opportunity," said Rodriguez, who began his pro career in January 2008. "I've been wanting this fight for a long time now. He's the No. 1 guy in my weight class; I gotta get that from him."
Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs), who also attended Tuesday's workout, was asked if he is getting the best of Andre Ward considering everything - layoff, surgery, contract dispute - Ward has had on his plate. Rodriguez jumped quickly to answer.
"Hey, as he said at whatever news (conference), his shoulder is better than ever," Rodriguez said, "so that's the way I see it. I see that I'm fighting a better-than-ever Andre Ward and that's what I want to fight. This guy has accomplished a lot in the sport and this is a way for me to accomplish something."
Shields chimes in
Rodriguez is trained by Ronnie Shields, who agrees with his fighter regarding Ward.
"He said his shoulder is better than ever, he said he's stronger than ever before, so we have to take him at his word," Shields said. "He's a fighter, he's been a fighter his whole life. When I was a fighter, I had to come off injuries. So we expect the best Andre Ward out there Saturday night."
Shields was a junior welterweight and compiled a record of 26-6-1 with 19 knockouts from 1980-88. He challenged Billy Costello for his world title in 1984, Costello winning a unanimous decision.
Ward: Rodriguez has struggled with weight
As Ward was talking to reporters, he brought up the notion that perhaps Rodriguez has had some weight issues. Ward said he saw him fairly recently in Las Vegas, and that was his impression.
"He's had weight problems for this fight," Ward said. "I saw him in Vegas and the first thing I did was look at his gut. He looked like he had been enjoying his time off. And I learned this trick from Bernard Hopkins. First thing Bernard does every time he sees me, he grabs me by the shoulders, 'Hey, how you doing, man?' He grabs me by the stomach and says, 'Hey.' That's the first thing he does.
"But for Edwin, I didn't have to touch him. I saw it."
Assuming Rodriguez makes weight the 168-pound weight limit, Ward said Rodriguez could weigh as much as "186 that night, maybe 190. And his mind-set might be, 'I'm going to blow this kid out, I'm going to push him back.' He's going to find out it's a little bit different."
By this time, Rodriguez was gone and not around to respond to Ward's comment about his weight.
Molina gaining reputation as a 'Comeback Kid'
John Molina is known as a courageous fighter whose boxing skills are not top-notch. He's also quickly gaining a reputation as a powerful puncher who has the wherewithal to come back late in a fight he's losing handily. Molina isn't shy about what he likes to do in the ring - unleash his power. And he has plenty.
Two fights of note stand out in this regard. In July 2010, Molina was trailing big on the scorecards when he dropped Hank Lundy with a right hand in the eighth round, eventually stopping Lundy in the 11th round of a fight Lundy was winning by scores of 98-91, 98-91 and 97-92.
More recently, this past July, Molina was well behind Mickey Bey when a left hook by Molina in the 10th and final round shook up Bey, Molina stopping him at 2:01 of the 10th. Bey was winning that fight by scores of 90-81, 89-82 and 88-83.
Molina, who will take on Jorge Pimentel of Mexico in a stay-busy fight on the undercard of Ward-Rodriguez, smiles when asked about his knack for late-round heroics.
"Well, the fight's never over until the last bell, and that's the way I look at these things," said Molina, a top 10 lightweight who will be fighting at super lightweight Saturday. "Believe it or not, I can't say I plan this out all the time. But I know that when I'm going to fight, it's not over in the ninth round, the 10th round, the eighth round. It's over when the final bell is said and done, if you make it that far.
"And I always know that if there's a second left in the fight, I've always got confidence I'm going to land my punch. And people know I can punch. I mean, my power was underrated at some point. But now people are realizing that I'm definitely a big puncher. So I think it brings intrigue to the sport, I think it brings intrigue to the fight."
Molina, of Covina, Calif., said he is looking forward to a 2014 he expects to be very bright. He said that if he can't get fellow contender Omar Figueroa to fight him, he'd be interested in making a permanent move up to super lightweight.
"There's Danny Garcia, Amir Khan's still hanging around, there's Zab Judah and there's Paulie Malignaggi; I'll meet him at a catch-weight if he wants to," Molina said. "There is Lamont Peterson, who I'm very much would love a fight with, although he has to fight his mandatory."
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News and BoxingScene.com.