Andre Ward has pulled a minor miracle, as he's convinced HBO to sign off on a fight with an Al Haymon fighter, meaning that Ward will finally be back in the ring on November 16 against undefeated contender Edwin Rodriguez.
It's a good fight and really the best available fight for Ward, and obviously it's a career-biggest matchup for Rodriguez, too. Ward (26-0, 14 KO) hasn't fought since September 8, 2012, when he dominated Chad Dawson, who at the time was the light heavyweight champ and chose rather foolishly to move down in weight to face Ward.
Ward was stripped of his WBC super middleweight title earlier this year due to inactivity, which was kind of hilarious, given that Vitali Klitschko last fought on the exact same date and the WBC has allowed him to keep his title. When the vacated WBC title eventually was put up for grabs between Sakio Bika and Marco Antonio Periban, with Bika winning the belt, it was assumed then that Rodriguez would target Bika, another Haymon fighter. Not only was it an easy fight to make and more winnable on paper, but HBO had earlier decided to no longer work with fighters represented by Haymon or Golden Boy, after years of catering to them and then getting basically played by the collective and Showtime into driving up prices for fights.
(I mean all that in a good way, in terms of "business." #businessheads)
"I'm excited to get back in the ring on November 16," said Ward, via press release. "The opponent is Edwin Rodriguez. He's a young, hungry, undefeated fighter who doesn't believe he can lose and it's my job to change his mind. I think he and his team feel like they are going to catch me slipping coming off of surgery and the layoff. I try to live like a champion. I stay in the gym, eat well, and don't abuse my body and this rest that I got was needed. I don't feel like the layoff will hurt me, I feel like it will help me. It allowed me to rest mentally and physically, and I want to show the fans on November 16 that I'm better than I was before I left."
But Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KO) is taking the fight with Ward, because it sounds like he got an offer that was just too good to turn down. The 28-year-old "La Bomba" has been on a good run, most recently winning a mini-tournament held in Monte Carlo with victories over Ezequiel Maderna (UD-10) and Denis Grachev (TKO-1).
"Vince Lombardi once said, 'Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.' On November 16th, I know I will win," said Rodriguez.
Promoter Lou DiBella, as you would expect, predicted an upset. "I commend Andre Ward for accepting a huge challenge after an injury and layoff. On November 16th, he will wish he didn't when he gets La-Bombed by La Bomba."
And Ward isn't taking the fight lightly after a year off. "You have a young fighter in Edwin Rodriguez that feels like it's his time. You have a young veteran in myself that feels like it's still my time, and those ingredients will make for a blockbuster fight on November 16 on HBO."
Ward-Rodriguez will be held at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, California. It has not been revealed whether or not Nick Cannon will be the emcee for the event.