By Kirk Jackson
This past weekend, the Pound-for-Pound No.2 fighter and super middleweight kingpin Andre Ward bested undefeated super middleweight challenger, Edwin Rodriguez 24-1 (16 KO’s) and improved his record to 27-0 (14 KO’s).
It was an impressive performance from the Bay Area native, returning from a 14 month absence, an absence forced because of a nagging shoulder injury. There were many questions entering the fight against Rodriguez and Ward answered seemingly every inquiry.
Ward looked sharp, showcasing his overall skill and excellence that has earned him the recognition of the 2nd best fighter in the world only behind living legend Floyd Mayweather.
Ward still possesses tremendous hand and foot speed, coordination, punch accuracy, reflexes and displayed the fortitude to fight in the trenches and get rough with Rodriguez.
From the opening bell it was an ugly match, resembling a WWE wrestling match more so than a boxing match and over the course of the bout, the fight continued to get ugly. Foul-filled and nasty to a point, where the referee Jack Reiss put a stop to the action in Round 4, deducting points from both fighters and threatening to disqualify both as well as take away their earnings for the fight.
Both fighters remained resilient, Ward applying punishment as the rounds went by and Rodriguez showing tremendous courage, continuing to absorb punches to the very end.
The only question that remains for Ward now is who is next?
Rodriguez was the No. 1 contender for his title and after defeating his the past weekend, the super middleweight division has essentially been cleaned out. The only viable option appears to be a rematch with WBA and IBF super middleweight champion Carl Froch 31-2 (22 KO’s). Froch of course wants the rematch to take place in England and would have to get past the undefeated challenger George Groves 19-0 (KO’s).
A potential route for Ward could move up to light heavyweight and facing the winner of the Adonis Stevenson vs. Sergey Kovalev bout or fighting the winner of the bout between Canadian stars Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal.
Many fans however, are clamoring for a match between Ward and the much hyped WBA middleweight champion, Gennady Golovkin 28-0 (25 KO’s).
As far as Ward is concerned, he doesn’t think Golovkin wants to face him.
Reported from Mike Coppinger at BoxingScene:
“You guys make these guys out to be bogeymen and monsters. We as fighters, we don’t think like that. I respect
(Golovkin), but I see holes in his game. … Ask them if they want it at 168 (pounds) right now. I don’t see them asking for that. I see them saying anybody from 160 to 175, but when they’re pressed, I don’t see him calling me out. Stop beating around the bush and get straight to it.”
HBO is hyping him up as the next big thing and it appears he has the same “Most feared fighter” hype Antonio Margarito had several years back. But like with Margarito, the hype was not warranted. Although I think Golovkin is levels ahead of Margarito skill wise and can potentially have a great career, he still has a ways to go.
I tend to agree with Ward’s assessment of Golovkin. He is a talented champion and does possess legit power. But it does appear his fans engage in the talking and calling out names, more so than he does and he hasn’t faced the best level of opposition. There are some deficiencies in his style and a fighter of Ward’s caliber would certainly be capable of exploiting those deficiencies.
Ideally, HBO would like to make a mega-fight featuring Ward and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. It’s one of the few PPV options they have and could potentially draw big numbers with the Mexican fan base of Chavez. It’s a great opportunity for Ward as well, as he is searching for that block-buster financially satisfying fight that has eluded him thus far in his already impressive career.
This is probably the most realistic option for Ward in the near future.