"I'm going to talk the loudest November 16th...I just think the same old Andre Ward and a little bit better. We're going to be mean, we're going to be nasty in there, we're going to be smart; I think we're going to be a lot of different things and I think that's what it takes to be not just a champion, but a high-caliber champion. I just want to continue to put on the performances I've been putting on against different styles, against different opponents, and this is a fight you don't want to miss. Edwin has a good team; he's going to bring it. And a lot of people got a lot of questions about me coming off the layoff and coming off the injury. I just feel like, man, that I put in the work and being off as long as I have has made me tremendously hungry, hungrier than I already was, and I'm just ready to showcase November 16," stated undefeated super middleweight king Andre Ward, who is hungry and excited to make his long-awaited return to the ring this Saturday. Check out what else he had to say about the fight, Edwin Rodriguez, and much more.
BT: What's poppin' Dre?
AW: Big Ben. What's up, baby?
BT: Chillin' bro. How you feelin'?
AW: I'm ready to rock. We're just putting the finishing touches on, man. I'm ready.
BT: I know you're eager to get back inside that ring, but has the long layoff been kind of refreshing as well?
AW: Yeah, I think my body thanked me for it. You know, I got a lot of time in this sport and if I wouldn't have had the injury, it would've been business as usual. We probably would've went on and fought Pavlik and then we would've went on from there and there would've been no rest. I think my body probably needed that, and I think that's probably something that has preserved Floyd [Mayweather] throughout his career; just over the last 3 or 4 years, having the 22-month layoff, you know, 12-month layoff, 14-month layoff. It's not ideal, but when you look at guys who have started when they were 6, 7, 8, 9 years old and now they're in their 30's or approaching their 30's, you need that rest, mentally and physically, to charge your batteries. Even though it's not something that I wanted to do and it was frustrating at times and all that kind of stuff, I think it was needed.
BT: So how did training camp go? I take it the shoulder is feeling good.
AW: Aw man, the shoulder's a non-issue. We're working like we always work. I'm ready to rock, man. I put in a lot of good rounds and had some really good sparring, man; some young pros. Some young, up-and-coming dudes, about 4 different guys; a couple kids from DC. We put our head down and we put in the work like we always do. It's been no different. I think the shoulder is a bigger issue to the people on the outside than it is for me and my team. It's not even something we talk about no more.
BT: I take it you guys didn't have any problems finding sparring partners to emulate anything that Rodriguez does inside the ring.
AW: You try to do the best you can to bring in guys that are similar. You're not going to find an exact replica. I know that you're not going to find anybody like me; I know that for a fact. So you do the best you can. You try to get what you can in there and you go from there. At the end of the day, you can have the perfect sparring, you can have the perfect camp, you can have everything, but it's about executing fight night when it counts. That's what we try to stay focused on. We put in the work and we do the best we can. We got top-flight sparring though. Even if it's not a guy that's exactly like my opponent, we get top-flight guys and that's one thing we've always done. I think that's important. I don't take a lot of punishment. Even though I do have tough sparring, I don't take a bunch of punishment in sparring, so I can afford to have tough guys, man. But it's about fight night. It's about getting it done and executing that night.
BT: How would you compare Edwin Rodriguez to some of the other top guys you've faced, like Chad Dawson and Carl Froch?
AW: Well, it's a tough question because I don't think he has the skill of a Chad Dawson and I don't think he's necessarily the caliber of fighter that a Carl Froch is, but at the same time, you can't underestimate that this is his opportunity. I think that's where guys go wrong and I'm thankful that me personally, my team, we've never had that issue. Just specifically speaking about me, in my mind, I'll give a guy more credit than he deserves to make sure that I'm preparing the way I'm supposed to prepare, because it's easy to be running the hills, it's easy to not go that extra round and not put in that extra time because maybe you're listening to people's opinions about your opponent. But I've never been that guy. I love to compete, man, but I love to win and I worked really hard and went through a lot to win the titles that I have, man, and he's not going to catch me slipping. You know, if you put these guys up right next to each other, no, he doesn't have the skills, but he's tough, he's coming, and you can't underestimate that. I think his eagerness is his greatest strength, but similar to Carl Froch, it's also his greatest weakness because sometimes, he's too eager, and I think that's what's going to get him in trouble in this fight.
BT: You and I have talked in the past about random blood and urine testing being something you were interested in, so I know you don't have any problem doing it. The way it was brought up for this particular fight, however, seemed odd. Despite the fact that you guys were negotiating for several months, the first time it was ever mentioned was during the kick-off press conference. Can you touch on the VADA situation a little and explain how that went down?
AW: My stance is simply a principle stance. You're going to have people that understand and respect it and you're going to have my critics who want to write about it and all of a sudden have this cloud of suspicion. But they're entitled to be suspicious and write what they want to write; they're entitled to do that and they have that right. I think before they do that, they should do their homework and check my track record. I've been the same way and have been putting on the same type of performances since I've been 17 years old. I turned Open Senior at 165, went to the Olympics at 178, but was still 170, turned pro in 2004 at 165, went down to 160, now I'm back to 168; there's been no spike in my performance or something where you scratch your head and say, "Wow, I've never seen this before." I think before they write and just kinda take that top water bait that Rodriguez and his team put out, they should just, you know, give me a little credit and just kinda check the track record. If anybody has had a spike or performance, and I'm not accusing him, but I'm saying if anybody has, it's been him his last couple of fights.
With that being said, it's very simple. This kid asked for a lot in negotiations that was publicized, from the money to other things. You know, he signed with Al Haymon and I think he kinda got beside himself once he did that in negotiations and just started demanding and asking for stuff. It was just funny that the drug testing never came up one time, then all of a sudden at the press conference, he brings it up and he brings it up in a kind of way where it's almost like it's a setup question or some type of ace card he wants to use. My response was simple. I have no problem doing random blood and urine testing, but it's going to be done the right way when I have an opportunity to ask the questions that I need to ask from Margaret [Goodman]. I've already talked to USADA awhile ago and I like what USADA is doing, but everybody knows it's very expensive. Even VADA, they're expensive. But the bottom line is, once we do it, we're going to do it the right way. I'm not going to be guilted into doing it. I'm not going to be pressured into doing it.
I just think Rodriguez needs to understand at this level, it's the highest level he's ever been at, probably the most interviews he's ever had, people are in this kid's ear telling him to say certain things. He was put up to do that at the press conference. He sounded like he was reading off of a cue card when he asked that question, and he needs to think for himself because when he was pushed on the matter, he doesn't really have the response that he should have because he didn't think it all the way through. He's taking orders and he's following through with them. This is the same guy that told everybody that I needed him more than he needed me, and this is the same guy that said the fight was dead and it's not going to happen, and it's the same guy who called me a dirty fighter, but his fight before his last fight, got two points taken away for an intentional foul. So this kid is libel to say anything with a camera in his face or with a microphone in his face, and that's been his track record leading up to this fight. So, you know, this is a principle stance, and unfortunately, people can feel about it the way they want to feel about it. But I feel like if you're really serious about this, you would do it the right way. He was serious about asking for that money, but all of a sudden, VADA was never brought up in the two months that we negotiated. And I think that's a question that when he's asked, he can't answer directly. He comes and he starts talking in circles. This is simple, why didn't you ask about this at the proper time? Because you didn't think about it. You were told right before the press [conference]. And he brought up some stuff about we called Virgil. I don't know who that we is and I don't know who talked to Virgil or whatever, but at the end of the day, I make the final decisions on my team, and furthermore, I haven't seen any emails or this, that, and the other. So all of that stuff is just these conspiracy theories that really take away from the fight. This isn't about VADA. This isn't about any of that stuff. This is about me and him, this is about my return, and this is about me defending my title. This is what this fight is about.
BT: Being the A side of this promotion, do you feel a little disrespected in a sense with some of the demands he's been trying to make?
AW: No, I don't feel disrespected. I know how this game works. I saw how it works when he signed with Al Haymon. See, what people gotta understand is I'm involved in my negotiations with other fighters. I'm not just getting phone calls. I'm involved in it. I'm asking questions and I kinda know what's going on from moment to moment. When he signed with Al, things shifted. He started publicly making these demands and saying this and I'm not going to fight unless I get that; and that's fine. He can fight for himself, you know. Try to get your money, try to get what you gotta get; I understand how that goes, but you just saw a shift in the guy's character. And then he's probably, like I said, getting asked more questions than he's ever been asked leading up to a fight; he's getting more press coverage, and if you've seen me, I haven't really been on the internet. I haven't really been doing none of that. I've given him his moment, his time in the sun, and I let him do most of the talking because I'm going to talk the loudest November 16th.
BT: So what can the fans expect from the rebuilt, new and improved Andre Ward on November 16?
AW: I just think the same old Andre Ward and a little bit better. We're going to be mean, we're going to be nasty in there, we're going to be smart; I think we're going to be a lot of different things and I think that's what it takes to be not just a champion, but a high-caliber champion. I just want to continue to put on the performances I've been putting on against different styles, against different opponents, and this is a fight you don't want to miss. Edwin has a good team; he's going to bring it. And a lot of people got a lot of questions about me coming off the layoff and coming off the injury. I just feel like, man, that I put in the work and being off as long as I have has made me tremendously hungry, hungrier than I already was, and I'm just ready to showcase November 16.
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