By Robert Hough
Andre “S.O.G.” Ward, who returns to the ring on Nov. 16 after a 14-month layoff to face Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez, said Wednesday that he would fight Bernard Hopkins, a man he has long admired. Ward (26-0, 14KOs) faces Rodriguez (24-0, 16KOs) in an HBO-televised fight at Citizen’s Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. Ward has suggested in years past that his level of respect for Hopkins was such that he wouldn’t get in the ring with the 48-year old, but the 29-year-old San Francisco native said in a conference call that he’s open to it.
“I don’t have a desire to call Bernard out, but I am a fighter,” he said. “If it makes financial sense, I’ll step to the plate. I’m more interested in fighting guys from my era, but at the same time, if it presents itself, I don’t back down from fights.”
Dan Goossen, Ward’s promoter, said he and his fighter have chatted a little about the prospect. “We’ve had that conversation,” he said on the call. “If it was something Bernard wanted to engage in, I think it would be a tremendous pay-per-view fight.”
Addressing the fight next week, Ward said his surgically repaired right shoulder, which was operated on in January and was the first “major injury” of his career, is opening up intriguing possibilities against Rodriguez and whoever else might come next.
“It allows me to throw cert kinds of punches I wasn’t able to throw,” said Ward, who added that trainer Virgil Hunter can feel the fresh, new power when they’re training with mitts.
Ward, who puts his WBA Super super-middleweight belt on the line, last fought on Sept. 8, 2012, when he scored a 10th-round TKO over Chad Dawson. Rodriguez has fought three times since then, most recently on July 13, when he beat Denis Grachev via first-round TKO.
The Grachev fight, in Monte Carlo, was the latest in a series of distant destinations for the Worcester, Mass., resident, who has fought in Key West, Fla., and Fargo N.D. The 28-year-old said those journeys and others have helped him as he faces what he said was easily the biggest fight of his life.
“All the different styles I’ve faced, the different countries and places, all that’s challenged me and helped me with everything that goes with a fight like this,” he said.