After a 14-month absence from the ring, Andre "S.O.G." Ward (26-0, 14 KO) is ready to reclaim his spot as the world's best super middleweight and one of the pound-for-pound elite. Waiting to ruin Ward's return is undefeated contender Edwin "La Bomba" Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KO).
Rodriguez has been in the ring with a few notable names, including Darnell Boone, the man who once floored Ward in a bout back in 2005. La Bomba has been impressive lately, and he presents an interesting challenge for S.O.G. in his return.
Here's how you can watch the action on Saturday night.
When: Saturday, Nov. 16, at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, Calif.
Update - Friday, Nov. 15 at 4 p.m. ET
Delvin Rodriguez blew his opportunity to challenge for Andre Ward's title by missing weight. Per Rick Reeno of Boxing Scene, Rodriguez weighed in at 170 pounds, two pounds over the 168-pound limit. The fight will go on, but Ward's title is no longer on the line.
This is not a good sign for Rodriguez heading in. Ward already had to be considered the favorite in this fight; the fact that Rodriguez wasn't disciplined enough to make weight at this stage of his career is discouraging.
---End of Update---
Who can blame Ward for fighting in his home state almost every chance he gets. How many non-American champions fight their entire careers in the friendly confines of their respective countries? Such is the spoils of success for a man who hasn't lost a fight as a professional.
After undergoing surgery on Jan. 4 to repair a tear in his right shoulder, Ward told Robert Hough of Fight News that he feels as though he'll be able to generate more power in both hands. If there is any valid criticism of Ward's game it is his lack of punching power. He's only stopped 14 of his opponents in his career.
That said, he does possess the speed, punching accuracy and in-ring I.Q. to make up for a power deficiency. Against a hard-charging and hungry contender, we'll see if he can answer the challenge with another win.
Hungry and Focused
After Rodriguez knocked out Denis Grachev in his last fight, he earned the attention of many in the boxing community. The 28-year-old has had a hard time getting a serious look from contenders and cable networks up to this point, but this is a major opportunity for him to set himself up nicely.
He is facing one of the sport's best, but Ward is coming off a major injury and subsequent layoff.
If there is an opportunity to perhaps take advantage of him, it would seem this would be the time. During the press conference that appears below, Rodriguez said he'd never had to be at his best before, but he knows he must be at his best to beat Ward.
That is perhaps the understatement of the year.
Rodriguez also requested Ward take VADA testing in the video. Per World Boxing News, Rodriguez says that Ward still hasn't submitted to testing. It may be a non-issue, but in this steroid-conscious sport and world, it is worth noting.
Unless Ward is rusty or distracted, his superior boxing skills should lead him to victory in this one. Rodriguez can punch, so there is danger there, but Ward is too smart to be caught off guard.
Rodriguez is an exceptional body puncher, and that could ultimately be his best weapon, but he also has a tendency to throw wide and telegraphed shots. Experienced, talented and quick fighters like Ward will take advantage of that.
Look for Ward to counterpunch and potshot Rodriguez early and then open up an attack meant to prove he can stop his opponent by the sixth round. By the eighth round, Ward should have convinced everyone in the building that he is the better man, and someone will mercifully call an end to the bout.
Ward will win by TKO, and I predict the end comes in the eighth round.
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