After months of negotiation, RING Magazine and WBA super-middleweight champion Andre Ward will make his long-awaited HBO return to face Edwin Rodriguez November 16 at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, California.
The card, dubbed “The Return,” will be Ward’s first bout since defeating then light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson last September. Since then, Ward has been sidelined with an shoulder injury and struggles with securing a high-level opponent that HBO would sanction. That foe was found with recent Al Haymon signee Edwin Rodriguez, who recently upped his profile by winning the Monaco-based Super Four middleweight tournament.
The bout will be a “battle of the undefeated” with each fighter (Ward 26-0, 13 KO and Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs) having unblemished records. The card will air as an HBO World Championship Boxing telecast, beginning at 9:30 p.m.
This is a very good (and dangerous) comeback. All fans want is for elite fighters to live up to the lofty standing they’ve attained. Ward has done that with this selection. This is a huge cut above the previously mentioned opponents like Dmitri Sartison.
Aside from the bout being made, there are a few interesting subplots. First, Rodriguez signed with Al Haymon a few weeks back. We know the majority of Haymon’s clients are with Golden Boy, the promoter who is are currently blacklisted by HBO. That lead a lot of observers, myself included, to believe Rodriguez was headed over to Showtime. Second, speculation on Ward’s future network home intensified when he showed up last weekend in Vegas for Showtime’s Mayweather-Canelo card. Best case scenario is that by this fight being made, HBO may be reconsidering their Golden Boy embargo as bad business.
As for the fight, Ward’s previous excellence and pedigree gives him the edge. However, a year-plus out the ring, in addition to shoulder surgery ups Rodriguez’s chances of pulling off what would unquestionably by the frontrunner for Upset of the Year.