Welcome back to the big show, Andre Ward.
The sublimely talented super middleweight king made a long-awaited return on Saturday night after 14 months on the shelf. He routed pretender Edwin Rodriguez via unanimous decision in defense of his status as both the world’s best 168-pound fighter and the most decorated of a ridiculous gaggle of champions recognized by the WBA.
The title belt wasn’t in peril after the previously unbeaten Rodriguez weighed in two pounds over the division limit on Friday night. Still, if the Massachusetts-based Dominican had defeated Ward or even pushed him close to the brink of a loss, it would have compromised the American’s slot at or near the top of most pound-for-pound lists.
Instead, with his win and improvement to 27-0 in nearly nine years as a pro, Ward stayed in the discussion for a handful of fights against foes who have either mentioned his name or heard theirs mentioned alongside his.
Read on for those who warrant top consideration as the next in line.