Super middleweight kingpin Andre Ward is close to an agreement to face Edwin Rodriguez on Nov. 16, industry sources told SI.com. The fight will take place in either Anaheim or Ontario, Calif. and be televised on HBO.
A source described the deal as “90 percent done” and said an announcement should come within the next two days.
Ward (26-0) has been out of action since last September, when he knocked out light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson. A shoulder injury sidelined Ward for the first half of the year and a protracted dispute with HBO over his next opponent pushed his target return date from September to November. In discussions with HBO, Ward preferred a softer opponent -- Dimitri Sartison, Caleb Truax and Stanyslav Kashtanov were three of the names that were floated -- while still making a seven-figure payday. HBO was unwilling to put up the money Ward wanted for a tune-up fight.
Both Ward and HBO were in agreement on Rodriguez (24-0), a hard-hitting 168-pound contender who is coming off an impressive first-round knockout win over Denis Grachev. HBO, which is heavily invested in Ward’s future, agreed to put up a $3.15 million license fee. However when Ward offered Rodriguez $800,000 last month, it was rejected.
It is unclear what split of the license fee got the deal done.
Ward-Rodriguez will mark the return of an Al Haymon fighter to HBO. Last March, HBO announced it would no longer do business with Golden Boy Promotions. Haymon, the shadowy advisor who represents many of boxing’s top talents, works almost exclusively with Golden Boy. However last month Rodriguez, who is promoted by Lou DiBella, signed with Haymon. Haymon and DiBella have worked together before, most notably with former welterweight champion Andre Berto. -- Chris Mannix