Ward to sparkle on return
Our boxing man Simon Crawford expects Andre Ward to make a sparkling return to the ring against Edwin Rodriguez this weekend.
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Super-middleweight star Andre Ward returns to the ring after a 14-month lay-off this weekend following shoulder surgery and I expect him to hit the heights and see off Edwin Rodriguez in Ontario, California.
Ward (26-0 14KOs) had somehow managed to keep a rotator cuff injury in his right shoulder quiet for all of his professional career, but when he aggravated it last year in training then surgery in January was the only answer.
Making the fifth defence of his WBA title, the 29-year-old will be out to impress as he did in overcoming Chad Dawson so comprehensively in his last outing, back in September 2012.
There is no doubt that Ward - generally regarded as the number two pound-for-pound fighter in the world behind Floyd Mayweather Jr - has ground to make up on his rivals with our own Carl Froch, who Ward so comprehensively outpointed back in 2011, assuming dominance in a hugely competitive division.
It won't be easy for Ward who could have been handed a far easier return than the 28-year-old Rodriguez, from the Dominican Republic, who has built up a notable record with 24 wins from 24 fights with an impressive 16 stoppages.
But if Ward is to stamp his authority once again, then this is the perfect platform for him to do it.
"He's never been 12 rounds before and he makes a lot of mistakes," said Ward. "His eagerness is his strength but it's also his weakness, similar to Carl Froch. He doesn't regard his defence, he's reckless at times but if you're reckless you can be caught out.
"Edwin is a good fighter - he's undefeated and he's a hungry challenger - but he's also dealing with a hungry champion. So you've got to look at that side too. I've not just got to deal with him, he's got to deal with me."
Ward is a master technician who can also punch - he is the real deal and even after such a lengthy lay-off I think he will still hit the ground running.
Yes, his timing could be wayward in the early rounds with ring rust inevitable but I think that once Ward gets into his stride he can power to an impressive win.
You have to give respect to the record that Rodriguez has built up, but closer examination suggests the level of opposition has not been the best.
Fighting Andre Ward is a huge, huge step up for him - and one I think is beyond him.
The layers agree and the best you'll get on a Ward win is 1/8, with Rodriguez as big as 7/1. They see a Ward victory on points as the most likely outcome but that offers little value at 8/13.
I think Ward will want to make a statement and will come on strong in the second part of the fight, ultimately breaking Rodriguez up before forcing a late stoppage.
That's why I'm going to take the 10/3 being offered by Sky Bet for Ward to win in rounds 7-12.