Ward defends title, outclasses Rodriguez
Ringside by David Robinett and Robert Hough
Photos by “Big” Joe Miranda
Cementing his status as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward returned from a 14-month layoff to school previously unbeaten Edwin Rodriguez over 12 rounds on HBO World Championship Boxing at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. What the bout lacked in competitiveness, it made up for in drama, as Ward and Rodriguez tangled often, stared each other down several times, and each suffered a two-point penalty deduction, all of which resulted in the unusual unanimous decision scores for Ward of 116-108, 117-107, and 118-106.
Coming into Saturday's fight Ward and Rodriguez were on different trajectories, with Rodriguez ascending off the strength of his victories in the two-fight "Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super 4" tournament while Ward has been in a virtual state of limbo since winning the "Super Six World Boxing Classic" tournament, fighting only once since the conclusion of the tournament in 2011 due to injuries and promotional issues. However, Rodriguez sabotaged some of his momentum by coming into the fight over the 168lb division limit, making him ineligible to take Ward's title with a victory.
Notwithstanding his weight troubles, for a few rounds early in the fight it looked as though Rodriguez, (24-1, 16 KOs), might have caught Ward, (27-0, 14 KOs), in a vulnerable position following his long layoff. Rodriguez fought Ward on even terms in rounds one and two, firing off quick right hands to Ward's head and body as his left arm was tying Ward up inside. Rodriguez was also able to land the right hand in the center of the ring as Ward was coming in. On the flipside, Ward was able to land his left hand at will on Rodriguez the entire night, with nearly every round featuring a Ward left hand that snapped Rodriguez's head like a swivel, to the gasps of the crowd. Neither fighter was able to get into a rhythm as their infighting often resulted in grappling or clinches that slowed the action.
The infighting between the two fighters reached a head in round four, when Rodriguez wrapped his arm around Ward coming inside and Ward drove Rodriguez back into the ropes, hitting him with his free hand. Referee Jack Reiss grabbed Ward from behind to break up the infighting, but both fighters continued to throw punches, some of which glanced off of Reiss. Reiss immediately called time, individually admonished each fighter, and then deducted two points from both Ward and Rodriguez for unsportsmanlike conduct. Reiss also announced to ringside officials and the fighters that he was recommending a fine for their infractions.
When action resumed Ward started to unleash his left hand on Rodriguez, landing hard jabs and straight hands that snapped Rodriguez's head back in violent fashion. At times, Rodriguez would practically cover his cheek with one glove to avoid Ward's left hands, to no avail.
With each successive round Ward continued to dominate with his left hand and make Rodriguez more and more hesitant to commit himself to his attack. And the more Rodriguez began to hesitate and allow Ward to get off first, the more momentum Ward continued to build up with each round. By the so-called championship rounds, Ward was in complete control, although any thoughts of a knockout by Ward were erased when Ward landed a haymaker of a left hook in round ten that even drew gasps from press row, but to which Rodriguez shook his head and howled in defiance. Although outclassed, Rodriguez was game and strong-chinned, leaving Ward to be content with a clear decision victory.
After the fight, Ward explained why the infighting got out of hand, as well as his thoughts on how well he performed coming off the extended layoff.
"He [Rodriguez] was fighting a very rough fight and I had to adjust and fight fire with fire," explained Ward. "Jack Reiss did a tremendous job tonight keeping the action where it needed to be. I felt like I did great being off fourteen months and I'm happy to be back." - David Robinett
Funez Defeats Gonzalez
In the walkout bout following HBO's Ward vs. Rodriguez telecast, featherweight Juan Funez, (3-0, 1 KO), remained undefeated with a four-round unanimous decision over Carlos Gonzalez, (1-4, 0 KOs). Scores for the bout were 39-37, 40-36, 40-36.
Despite Funez being the clear victor, Gonzalez was a buzz saw in the ring, albeit one with a soft, ineffective blade. Gonzalez applied heavy pressure for all four rounds, at times rattling the classier, more technically sound Funez. However, Gonzalez was swinging wide and his punches appeared to be all arm, while Funez patiently countered with short, compact punches, although he was drawn into several exciting toe-to-toe exchanges with Gonzalez. By the end of round four, Gonzalez's constant activity finally seemed to catch up to him, and he barely survived the round after taking some hard left hooks to the head and body by Funez.- David Robinett
Gonzales Remains Undefeated!
In a battle of undefeated super middleweights, Brandon Gonzales defeated Jonathan Nelson via ten round unanimous decision. Scores were 99-91, 99-91, 98-92.
Gonzales, (18-0-1, 10 KOs), was fighting a ten-round bout for only the second time in his career and had some trouble early with Nelson's speed and counterpunching. Nelson, (19-1, 9 KOs), appeared fully in control in the first two rounds, countering the forward-moving Gonzales with left job, right hand combinations and left hooks to the body. However, Nelson was stretching out to ten rounds for the first time, and he faded as the fight moved into the later rounds. Gonzales began to impose his will as the fight progressed, continually moving forward and throwing a higher volume of punches than his opponent. By rounds nine and ten Nelson was in survival mode, just making it to the final bell despite being wobbled late in round ten by a Gonzales right hook.- David Robinett
The Latin Snake Returns
Sergio "The Latin Snake" Mora, (25-3-2, 8 KOs), put together his first winning streak in over five years with a fifth round stoppage over Milton Nunez, (26-9-1, 24 KOs) in a scheduled six-round middleweight bout. Prior to this fight Mora told the press and anyone else who would listen that the soft-hitting, slick-boxing former "Contender" star would become a more aggressive, television-friendly fighter going forward, while also calling out Gennady Golovkin . While Mora is not likely to threaten Golovkin's middleweight knockout ratio, this older iteration of the Latin Snake turned in a crowd-pleasing performance after a few rough moments early on.
Mora won the first round boxing Nunez and landing a handful of clean right hooks, but Nunez regained the momentum in round two, clubbing Mora to the head, and in some exchanges, behind the head. One of Nunez's flurries to the head appeared to wobble Mora, but Nunez could not effectively follow up before Mora regained his legs, missing several punches and smothering his attack by coming in too close and too fast towards Mora. Nunez again hit Mora on the top of, and behind, Mora's head in round three, before a two-handed combination to the body by Mora backed Nunez off and allowed Mora more space to work with.
By round five Nunez started to tire, at which point Mora stepped up his attack, knocking Nunez down midway through the round before his follow-up barrage prompted the referee to step in and save Nunez from further damage. Time of the stoppage was 2:53 of round five.- David Robinett
Arellano Edges Huerta
Junior lightweight Jonathan Arellano, Ontario, Calif. (13-2-2 3KOs) edged Charles Huerta, Paramount, Calif. (18-3, 11KOs) in a majority decision over eight rounds. Scores were 76-76 80-72 and 78-74.
Arellano fought aggressively and landed lots of sharp jabs and many a quick combination as Huerta worked hard with some success to slip punches and counter the faster man. --Robert Hough
Molina Mauls Sanchez
Super welterweight Oscar Molina, Norwalk, Calif. (7-0, 6KOs) outclassed a game Carlos Sanchez, Denver, Colo. (6-5, 2KOs) before the referee stopped the fight between the fourth and fifth rounds of the six-round contest.
Molina, who fought on the 2012 Mexican Olympic team, landed massive left to the body near the end of the round and launched a nasty barrage of punches before the round ended. The fight was stopped after the ring doctor stepped in to check Sanchez and spoke with him for several seconds. --Robert Hough
Molina Jr. Hammers Pimentel
Lightweight John Molina Jr., Los Angeles (27-3, 22 KOs) dominated Jorge Pimentel, Guaymas, Mexico (26-18, 19 KOs), dropping him three times in the second round and getting the TKO at 2:59. The fight was set for eight rounds.
Molina Jr., fought aggressively in the first round and in the second, he landed big rights at will, dropping Pimentel with shots to the head and body, finishing his opponent, who kept pressing forward, with a right upstairs.--Robert Hough
Deloach Destroys Hill
Super welterweight Justin Deloach, Georgia LA, (6-0, 4KOs) overwhelmed Robert Hill, Inglewood, Calif., (1-2) before dropping and stopping him at 51 seconds in the third round of a four-round bout.
Deloach, a tall, rangy fighter who was accurate, strong and active throughout the fight, was effective with a formidable arsenal of punches with both hands. --Robert Hough
Hirsch Tops Livingston
Junior middleweight Tony Hirsch, Oakland, Calif., (15-5-2) scored a majority decision over Donyil Livingston, Palmdale, Calif., (8-4-1, 4KOs) with scores of 59-55 twice and 57-57.
Hirsch, who has sparred Ward for several years, landed several big rights throughout the six-round opening bout, which was fought at a measured pace, with Hirsch doing a little more and landing bigger punches.--Robert Hough