Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) will defend The Ring and WBA super middleweight belts against Rodríguez (24-0, 16 KOs) Saturday night at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, California.
A gold medalist as a light heavyweight at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Ward hasn’t fought since earning a 10th round TKO victory over “Bad” Chad Dawson in September 2012.
The sport’s second premier pound-for-pounder got injured two months after the Dawson (31-3, 17 KOs) scrap while preparing to battle retired titleholder Kelly Pavlik.
“People are always interested, I think, to see how athletes do after they’re injured,” said Ward, 29, who underwent the knife on January 4 to fix a small tear in his right shoulder capsule. “Do they come back better than they were? Are they the same? Or does the surgery prevent them from going to the level where they’ve been?”
Meanwhile, Rodríguez (24-0, 16 KOs) last vacated the squared circle in July after finishing Russian Denis Grachev in the first round.
“I’ve fought good fighters and I’m undefeated. But, hey, this is fighting the number one guy in the world,” said Rodríguez, who is best known for allegedly pounding Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev a few years ago during a sparring session. “I understand that Andre Ward’s at a whole different level.”
Although “undefeated” and fearless, “La Bomba” is too reckless in the ring to threaten a brilliant tactician like Ward.
Ward’s been shelved for an extended period and it’ll be interesting to see if he can return “to the level where (he was).”
Ultimately, “Andre Ward’s at a whole different level” and he will quickly adapt, readjust and knock Edwin Rodríguez onto Queer Street within 10 rounds less than a week from this evening.by