By David Robinett
Photos: Big Joe Miranda
Faced with the biggest challenge of his young career, undefeated contender Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez, (24-0, 16 KOs), looked to the past for inspiration prior to his upcoming bout with WBA Super Middleweight Champion Andre “S.O.G.” Ward, (26-0, 14 KOs), this Saturday night in Ontario, California.
“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,” proclaimed Rodriguez.
At the final press conference prior to Saturday’s championship bout on HBO World Championship Boxing, Rodriguez and Ward faced off before a small gathering at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario to declare themselves ready for whatever the other fighter brings to the ring. For Rodriguez, it was also a chance to show that he’s not intimidated by Ward and is ready to rise to the challenge.
“I’m not here to lay down to anybody,” said Rodriguez. “Andre Ward is a good fighter, he’s been undefeated for 17 years. But I still remember what it feels like when I [last] lost, when I didn’t make the top eight for the Olympic team. That’s my motivation. I don’t want to feel that way again. So that’s what motivates me, keeps pushing me forward to be the best that I can be. Come November 16th, I’ll be that.”
Rodriguez’s confidence was echoed by his promoter Lou DiBella, who noted that “no man is unbeatable,” and that his charge presented a unique challenge to the consensus #2 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
“Edwin’s not here just to appear, to be tough, he’s here to win,” explained DiBella. “He’s the strongest, youngest, hungriest fighter Andre Ward has fought, and that includes the Super Six Tournament.”
For his part, Ward appeared focused and not too impressed with all the talk of the youngster’s hunger and motivation. Ward also slipped in some verbal jabs amid the rumors of Rodriguez’s ballooning weight between fights.
“Everybody keeps on talking about how hungry he is, how he’s a hungry challenger. Well I’m a hungry champion,” declared Ward. “I know about the weight issues, I know about the steam room and all that stuff. That stuff catches up with you. It catches up with you in a championship fight, when you fight at this level. This is not the amateurs. You can do that when you’re fighting a three or four round fight but this is a twelve round fight, and in those late rounds, you’re going to need that gas.”
Ward continued to take shots at Rodriguez’s conditioning, while also deflecting concerns about his own fitness coming off a 14-month layoff due to shoulder surgery, “I thank God for this opportunity to be back because, when there were no cameras around, when there were no fans around, I was getting up, grinding, rehabbing and working my body so when a fight got made, whenever that time came, I wasn’t going to have to get ready, I was going to be ready. That was the first thing everybody said when they saw me at the press conference to announce this fight was how lean I looked. That’s how a fighter is supposed to look in between fights. A professional fighter is not supposed to be professional eight weeks out, ten weeks out. You’re supposed to live this thing, and that’s what I do. I’m not worried about the 14-month layoff.”
The two normally low-key fighters engaged in some animated trash-talking during the staredown photos concluding the press conference, but Rodriguez remained poised and appeared ready for the biggest challenge of his career.”I’m ready to get in there,” said Rodriguez. “I know I have to wait until Saturday night, but I can’t wait to get inside that ring and punch this guy [Ward] in the face.”
To which the always collected Ward replied, “I’ve been hearing a lot of talk from him and his coach, but while they’ve been talking, I’ve been working, I’ve been grinding. Come Saturday night, then we’ll talk.”
Andre Ward vs. Edwin Rodriguez, “The Return,” is being presented by Goossen Tutor Promotions in association with S.O.G. Promotions and DiBella Entertainment, and sponsored by Morongo Casino Resort Spa and the City of Ontario. The live HBO telecast on November 16, 2013, from Ontario, California begins at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT.