ONTARIO -- Andre Ward had not fought for 14 months when he stepped into the ring against fellow unbeaten Edwin Rodriguez on Saturday night.
Except for a bit of sloppiness here and there, one would not have known it.
Utilizing a Larry Holmes-like jab that continually snapped back Rodriguez's head, as well as a crisp left hook and some nice work to the body, Ward dominated on his way to a wide unanimous decision win before 4,158 at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
The Oakland fighter, who won by judges' scores of 118-106, 117-107 and 116-108, gets credit for a defense of his WBA super middleweight title even though Rodriguez didn't make the 168-pound weight limit at Friday's weigh-in.
Rodriguez (24-1) was not eligible to win the belt even if he had emerged victorious. Before the fight could take place, Rodriguez could weigh no more than 180 pounds Saturday morning. He tipped the scales at 179.8 pounds.
He was fined $200,000 -- 20 percent of his $1 million purse -- by the California Athletic Commission for not making weight on Friday, with $100,000 going to Ward and $100,000 going to the commission. That upped Ward's take to $2 million.
Ward (27-0) was pleased with his performance, and the reaction of his surgically repaired right shoulder, the main reason for his long layoff.
"My shoulder felt good, it never hurt me," Ward said. "I never got tired. He was holding a lot, I guess he felt he had to fight that way. I had to adjust to it and so I moved inside and you saw the change that happened after the second round. I dominated the fight and I'm ready to go again.
"Edwin was not trying to win rounds, he was just trying to get lucky. He was trying to intimidate me."
There were no knockdowns, but Rodriguez had a lump under his right eye and was cut over the left eye by a head-butt in the 12th round.
"I'm not ashamed," said Rodriguez of Worcester, Mass. "I'm a winner. I'll always be a winner."
He assessed his and Ward's work.
"Andre Ward was too tricky and not a lot of power in his right hand," Rodriguez said. "I was disappointed in my own performance."
A wild fourth round saw both fighters deducted two points by referee Jack Reiss.
Rodriguez had Ward in some sort of a headlock with the fighters moving toward the ropes. Reiss tried to break them apart. But the fighters kept throwing and Reiss was just clipped in the chin with a left hook from Rodriguez.
"It was like off-setting penalties in football," Reiss said of the two-point deductions. "We had two highly trained athletes full of adrenaline and emotion."
Reiss said he made each deduction two points so the next fighter to lose a point would be disqualified.