Of all the fights that have happened the last couple of months and those that will occur over before 2014 begins, the Andre Ward-Edwin Rodriguez bout might just be the most overlooked.
Ward, prior to a shoulder injury that has kept him out action for 14 months, was arguably, pound-for-pound, the best in the world. But as is usually the case in boxing, a long layoff can lead to a demotion in the rankings.
But Ward (26-0), the WBA super middleweight champ, insists it will be business as usual when he makes his return the ring on Saturday night at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., on HBO's World Championship Boxing to take on Rodriguez (24-0).
"It's very difficult. You never want to be off,” Ward said of the layoff. “You never want to be on the sidelines, especially against your will. The silver lining is that I've been in this sport 20 years. I'm a max effort type person when I train and prepare so I think my body thanked me for it.”
After wins over Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green, Sakio Bika, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch and Chad Dawson in succession, Ward was on top of the boxing world.
But his absence from the has bought about a few doubters. Ward is adamant his skills haven’t left him.
"I'm not worried about the 14-month layoff. I'm excited to get back. I'm sharp. I'm ready. I'm going to be better than ever,” said Ward. “Like Floyd Mayweather said, 'we've been here before. This is not my first rodeo.'"