Oakland’s Andre Ward shook off the rust from 14 months out of the ring Saturday night, handing Edwin Rodriguez his first loss in a lopsided unanimous decision in Ontario.
Ward, the WBA super middleweight champion, was scheduled to defend his title against the previously unbeaten Rodriguez, but that changed Friday when Rodriguez failed to make weight.
Ward (27-0) was never threatened by Rodriguez (24-1), outclassing him from the opening minutes with his jab and inside fighting.
Rodriguez, knowing he was being dominated, resorted to desperation tactics. He punched Ward while they were clinched and landed blows to the back of the champion’s head.
“It’s not always going to be a spectacular performance, but a win is a win,” Ward told the Associated Press. “I felt like I did great [after] being off for 14 months and I’m happy to be back.”
Ward won the decision on all three cards, 118-106, 117-107 and 116-108.
Rodriguez missed weight by two pounds and was fined $200,000, cutting his purse to $800,000. Half of the fine went to the California State Athletic Commission and the other $100,000 was added to Ward’s purse, bumping his payday to $2 million.
“No disrespect to Edwin, but he didn’t really come to win, he came to get lucky,” Ward said. “He wants to hold and make it ugly and hopes he catches you with something big. You’ve got to learn how to fight those kind of guys.”
Ward’s last fight was in September 2012, when he stopped former light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson.
But his career got sidetracked by rotator cuff surgery and a spat with promoter Dan Goossen. Then Ward had trouble finding an opponent for his return before settling on Rodriguez.