They are separated in age by only one year, with Andre Ward being 29, and Edwin Rodriguez, 28. They are both undefeated boxer-punchers, Ward, at 26-0 with 14 knockouts, and Rodriguez, at 24-0 with 16 stoppage victories.
But other than the fact that they are in the same weight class at 168 pounds, there are those who believe that the commonalities end there.
A former Olympic gold medalist, Ward is the RING and WBA champion who has vanquished a host of veteran fighters, a few of whom are vastly more experienced than Rodriguez. Rodriguez, meanwhile, is facing a man who represents his biggest test, by far.
“Although they sport similar records, that’s where the similarities end and the glaring differences begin,” states Andreas Hale of KnockoutNation.com. “Andre Ward has faced the far superior competition, has a better boxing pedigree than anyone in the business not named Floyd Mayweather and has an undeniable hunger to prove his skeptics wrong.”
Below, RingTV.com polled 18 insiders on their thoughts as to what will transpire in Ward-Rodriguez.
Andre Ward UD 12 Edwin Rodriguez: Andre Ward now has been off for almost 14 months, but he’s still one of the best in the world. Edwin Rodriguez is an athletic puncher.
But Rodriguez has yet to be really tested. I expect Ward to use his full bag of tricks to nullify Rodriguez’s speed and power on his way to a lopsided and uneventful 12-round nod.
Record: 10-6 [Provodnikov late-round KO Alvarado]
Andre Ward, UD 12 Edwin Rodriguez: Andre Ward, unbeaten and unappreciated, has been boxing’s best-kept secret for too long. Blame his low-key manner, or his promoter, or inactivity. Blame the business. It doesn’t matter, at least not as Ward comes back in an attempt to turn critical acclaim into commercial success. For now, only Edwin Rodriguez matters.
Rodriguez is dangerous enough to disrupt Ward’s aspirations in what looks to be the first step in the second half of his career. Rodriguez has power, especially at the end of a sweeping left. After a 14-month layoff following shoulder surgery, that could put Ward in harm’s way in the early going. But Ward’s smarts and poise will kick in during later rounds for a cautious, yet thorough decision that puts him back in the conversation and perhaps into some real money against Sergio Martinez, or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., or Gennady Golovkin.
Record: 23-9 [Garcia TKO 11 Martinez]
Andre Ward W12 Edwin Rodriguez: As much as I’d like to see Worcester, Mass.’s Edwin Rodriguez step up to the plate and hit one out of the park like the Red Sox did in the aftermath of the Boston Bombings on April 15th, I know I’ll probably have to settle for the fact that “La Bomba” bombed out the bomber and broke his rib in sparring before all that happened. Did you know that? Did you also know that Rodriguez’s wife gave birth to their second son on the day of the Marathon Bombings?
If the challenger can somehow capitalize on the magnitude of these events and catch the “Son of God” cold after a 14-month layoff, the potential exists for another made-for-TV storyline to unfold. While Super Six winner Andre Ward has been at odds with his promoter Dan Goossen, Rodriguez just won the “Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super 4″ and signed with Al Haymon. The inactivity of Ward for a shoulder injury combined with Edwin’s intimate connection to the championship destiny of “Boston Strong” has created the ideal situation for an explosive upset.
Look for a very gutsy effort by Rodriguez. In the early going, Ward won’t be as sharp as he
normally is. The New England boxing community will start to believe when “La Bomba” scores an early flash knockdown and more than holds his own in the first half of the fight. The keys to victory down the stretch for Ward will be Edwin’s suspect defense and rapidly diminishing punch accuracy. Like the great champion he is, Ward will make his adjustments and respond with a dominating performance in the second half of the fight to secure a closer than anticipated unanimous decision.
Record: 20-9 [Garcia TKO 8 Martinez]
Andre Ward UD12 Edwin Rodriquez: If Floyd Mayweather didn’t like money so much, and remained in retirement, then Andre Ward would be the consensus No.1 pound for pound fighter on the planet right now. Rodriguez is unbeaten, but that is misleading because all of his opponents were undistinguished.
This is like going from a paddling pool into shark infested waters for “La Bomba” who will find himself completely outclassed, on the outside and the inside. I expect a master class from Ward, who is brilliant at what he does.
Record: 13-8 [Garcia TKO 11 Martinez]
Andre Ward W 12 Edwin Rodriguez: What’s interesting about this fight is that the time off may adversely affect Andre Ward, which would take him down a notch from his pound-for-pound perch, while Edwin Rodriguez’s impressive KO over Denis Grachev pushes him up a notch or two.
Additionally, this was a more challenging fight than Ward initially wanted to take after such a long hiatus, so one must wonder if he’s either carrying a chip on his shoulder or if he’s going into this assignment grudgingly. The guess here is that Ward’s competitive streak, athletic pride and professionalism will prevail.
The result will be determined by which man imposes his style and pace. Ward likes to work methodically and scientifically while Rodriguez is a gunslinger who fires bullets like an AK-47. Given Ward’s savvy, experience and stylistic versatility, it’s more likely that he’ll find a way to slow Rodriguez’s attack to a more comfortable pace and capture a decision.
Record: 20-7 [Garcia UD 12 Martinez]
Andre Ward UD 12 Edwin Rodriguez: Although they sport similar records, that’s where the similarities end and the glaring differences begin.
Andre Ward has faced the far superior competition, has a better boxing pedigree than anyone in the business not named Floyd Mayweather and has an undeniable hunger to prove his skeptics wrong.
Edwin Rodriguez has some pop and is coming into his own, but he will be in way over his head when he steps between the ropes with Ward.
Rodriguez’s best bet is to find a way to turn this into a brawl but Ward’s boxing IQ is just too great for Rodriguez to overcome. A better question to ask is whether or not Rodriguez can win a round against Ward. Everything else is elementary.
Record: 9-1 [Garcia TKO 7 Martinez]
Andre Ward UD 12 over Edwin Rodriguez: While Andre Ward hasn’t fought in 14 months and Edwin Rodriguez is much improved, the undefeated Ward is too smart, skilled and experienced to lose this fight.
Ward has beaten a diverse group of elite-level opponents during his rise to the top of the sport and has shown a very reliable chin against numerous strong punchers. Ward will handle Rodriguez’s power well and comfortably win a decision.
Record: 19-6 [Garcia TKO 8 Martinez]
Andre Ward TKO 9 Edwin Rodriguez: I like watching Edwin Rodriguez in action. His fights are fun, and he brings an element of excitement when he tries to live up to “LA Bomba” nickname.
All that said, he has nowhere near the skills needed to beat Andre Ward.
Those wild, overhand roundhouse rights that he throws are not going to connect with Andre. The only thing that is going to trouble Ward in this fight is his layoff. So I suspect he’ll start a little slowly, take whatever Edwin can dish out for a couple of rounds, and then begin dissecting him.
Ward will be dominant albeit a little rusty, break down Rodriguez bit by bit until the fight is stopped, and again demonstrate why he is so highly-ranked pound for pound.
Record: 20-11 [Golovkin KO 3 Stevens]
Andre Ward KO Edwin Rodriguez: How can you go against Andre Ward? Not yet, despite his long layoff. Edwin Rodriguez is not quite ready for a solid pro like Ward.
Ward keeps his head while those around him might be losing theirs. Exciting? No, but it doesn’t matter. Ward is too polished for Rodriguez. Ward by late stoppage.
Record: 18-10 [Garcia late-round stoppage]
Andre Ward KO 9 Edwin Rodriguez: Andre Ward will win this with a ninth round knockout against relatively inexperienced Edwin Rodriguez.
Too strong, too classy, Ward will re-assert his position as the best at super middleweight a week before his nearest rival on the ladder Carl Froch meets another of the new kids on the block in Gerorge Groves.
A long injury lay off means Ward needs to deliver a reminder to the world why he is undefeated after 26 outings as Rodriguez attempts to turn the bout into a slug-fest, Ward will do this with a stoppage in the latter rounds.
Record: 6-3 [Hopkins TKO 11 Murat]
Andre Ward TKO 11 Edwin Rodriguez: Edwin Rodriguez can fight. He’s scored sixteen knockouts in his twenty-four wins. He blew out light-heavyweight Denis Grachev four months ago in less than a round.
With that being said, his chances of defeating talented super-middleweight kingpin Andre Ward are somewhere between slim and none. Ward is returning to the ring after a lengthy layoff.
He’s itching to get back in there. Rodriguez can crack, but I see Ward finding his rhythm after a couple of rounds. He’ll break Rodriguez down with inside shots and stop him in round 11.
Record: 11-5 [Garcia TKO 11 Martinez]
Andre Ward UD 12 Edwin Rodriguez: If Edwin Rodriguez wins more than three rounds in this fight, it’ll be an upset. Andre Ward is just on a totally different level than his opponent.
Rodriguez is a very good, tough fighter who’s giving himself a real chance to win this fight, but I don’t think it’ll matter. Against any other 168-pounder, Rodriguez would be a live underdog.
But against Ward, clearly the best in the division and no worse than number two pound for pound, l don’t think he’ll be able to do anything.
Give Rodriguez a round or two to take advantage of Ward’s inactivity but after that it should be all Ward, all night, probably in the 119-109, 118-110-range.
Record: 22-9 [Garcia W 12 Martinez]
Andre Ward W 12 Edwin Rodriguez: I like Andre Ward to win a decision over Edwin Rodriguez. I think Rodriguez will have some good moments in the fight, but I just look at Ward as being more of a complete fighter.
Record: 17-6 [Garcia W 12 Martinez]
Andre Ward W 12 Edwin Rodriguez: It will be interesting to see what, if any, lingering affects Andre Ward’s shoulder injury will have on his game. Probably not much.
Edwin Rodriguez can crack, but Ward has a way of taking away power lanes by crowding opponents. His timing in impeccable, and a puncher’s chance just isn’t enough a chance against him.
Ward might start slow, but Rodriguez could give him a chance to look good offensively down the stretch for a lopsided decision.
Record: 21-9 [Garcia KO 8 Martinez]
Andre Ward UD 12 Edwin Rodriguez: Andre Ward is the the best fighter on the planet not named Floyd Mayweather, and has a huge edge in big fight experience over his talented opponent. Somehow, Edwin Rodriguez became a more explosive puncher about three fights ago, and will be dangerous throughout this fight.
Rodriguez goes to the body very well, and will test Ward similar to the way Sakio Bika did. Although Rodriguez is a much better boxer than Bika, his best shot to win is by out muscling Ward. This fight should be won by Ward’s ability to adjust and take away his opponents best weapon.
We don’t know what Rodriguez’ ceiling is, but it’s probably somewhere below the level of Andre Ward. I look for Ward to out box Rodrigues and win a clear unanimous decision, somewhere along the lines of 116-112.
Record: 14-5 [Garcia TKO 10 Martinez]
Andre Ward UD 12 Edwin Rodriguez: We know this will not be a Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado-type fight. Andre Ward never allows himself to get caught up in such wars.
What it should be is a wonderful display of pure boxing skills. But Ward is coming off a debilitating shoulder injury and hasn’t fought in 14 months.
And Edwin “La Bomba ” Rodriguez is no pushover. He’s a good fighter with a big reach advantage and the ability to hurt people with his left hook and straight right.
If he catches Ward, he could hurt him, but that likely won’t happen. I see Ward out-boxing Rodriguez and winning a decision.
Record: 18-6 [Garcia TKO 7 Martinez]
Andre Ward KO 11 Edwin Rodriguez: Andre Ward has cleaned up the super middleweight division and is clearly the leading man at 168 pounds. However, he’s coming off the longest layoff of his career.
The 14 months of inactivity can either give you the time to rest and recuperate to a healthy state, or to show ring rust and not compete at the highest level like he did in his last outing against Chad Dawson by scoring a hellacious 10th-round knockout.
Although this is Edwin Rodriguez we are talking about, he’s more of a plodder and shows above average knockout power . But Ward is simply on a different level, and I see him controlling the fight on the inside and scoring at will. The end comes inside of 11r rounds.
Record: 2-2 [Golovkin KO 8 Stevens]
Andre Ward W 12 Edwin Rodriguez: After 14 months on the sidelines, Andre Ward returns to action against Edwin Rodriguez, who enters on the back of a career best win over the summer blitzing Denis Grachev.
Despite the lay off, Ward is the consummate pro, as long as the shoulder is 100 percent. I expect Ward, as the elite fighter to have to much know how for E-Rod and box his way to a clear points decision.
Record: 12-7 [Garcia TKO 10 Martinez]
By a landslide, 18-0, the insiders see RING and WBA supermiddleweight champion Andre Ward retaining his titles over Edwin Rodriguez.
Photos by Alexis Cuarezma-Getty Images
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com