"Well, in light of the situation, coming off the surgery and 14 months of inactivity, I was quite pleased with how he performed. There was a little ring rust, but most of it is the perception, I believe, of his right hand connecting with everything else...I didn't want Andre to KO Edwin Rodriguez. I wanted him to beat him up and that's just what we did...I thought the 12 rounds was important coming off the 14-month layoff. It gave me a good idea to checkout his stamina to see exactly where he was, but I never called for the knockout. I just wanted him to keep beating on Edwin, and I wanted to cause some confusion in the corner as Edwin started falling behind and didn't have an answer," stated world-class trainer Virgil Hunter, who spoke in-depth about Andre Ward's performance in his victory over Edwin Rodriguez. Check it out!
BT: How's it going, Virg?
VH: Hey Ben. I'm doing good; just getting in from the gym.
BT: We finally got a chance to see Dre back in action. What did you think about his performance after the 14-month layoff?
VH: Well, in light of the situation, coming off the surgery and 14 months of inactivity, I was quite pleased with how he performed. There was a little ring rust, but most of it is the perception, I believe, of his right hand connecting with everything else. This was discussed by his doctor and by his therapist. They said by the time of the surgery, it would take about a year for everything to connect; that he would pretty much be in that zone where he left off with improvement, but for what the future holds, it would take about a year or so to really start connecting with that brain, so we have to keep drilling and he has to keep building it up and we're just looking forward to that complete connection of the right hand to everything else. It'll be a year in January since the surgery, and I believe April since we were able to begin hitting the pads and things like that, so we got about another 4 months to go, but I know exactly what they're talking about. I was able to see the improvements in camp and I can see what direction we're going in.
BT: Was there anything you had to do differently in camp now that he does have a healthy arm?
VH: Just reprogram it, you know, throwing the same punches that he had been throwing with the right arm before. The injury happened when he was 12 years old, and he had doctors and they just kind of gave us different ideas and theories about it, but he and I worked on it individually, building up the surrounding muscles, drilling it and things like that. Then we began to meet more advanced people and people who were specialized in those fields. We knew that it was something mechanically wrong with the arm then, but we were prepared to go the rest of his career with it. It's not like he couldn't hit you with it; it's not like he couldn't hurt you with it because he knocked guys down with it and you definitely feel it when he hit you with it, but there were certain adjustments that we had to make that a normal fighter with a normal arm wouldn't have to make in order to throw certain punches. But, you know, unless you knew it was there, you would never even notice what was going on. That was really just between him and I.
BT: Was there ever any concern on your part that, after the surgery, he might not be the same fighter and the two of you would have to make more adjustments?
VH: If there was going to be any adjustments, I definitely kept a positive outlook that the adjustments would be positive adjustments. We were prepapred for that, but, I mean, you would've had to go through it with him and myself, you know, over the years of what we had gone through, in particular what I knew he was going through, to know that I always believed that his arm was going to be healed. And definitely from a spiritual perspective, I always believed that. I never let go of that. I always felt that it was going to be healed, and when you have the opportunity to work with a doctor so confident and so sure of his ability and his team's ability, I knew that he was going to have an opportunity to perform with a whole arm for the rest of his career.
BT: As far as the actual fight was concerned, was there anything about Edwin Rodriguez that surpised you guys or did everything play out pretty much as you expected?
VH: Well look, I know a lot of people were talkig about KO and stuff; I didn't want Andre to KO Edwin Rodriguez. I wanted him to beat him up and that's just what we did. Some of the things that the kid said before the fight, even some of the things that Ronnie [Shields] said, you know, I didn't call for the knockout; Dre and I have a relationship and trust me, if I would've called for the knockout, he would've got him out of there, and the reason why I'm saying that is because if I would've called for it, I would've saw where the knockout was. As I told everyone that would listen that used to make these comments, I told them that we had a plan in his career, that we were going to learn how to dominate a fight, to dominate the opponent, and then we would begin to put our focus on getting guys out inside of 12 rounds, but I thought the 12 rounds was important coming off the 14-month layoff. It gave me a good idea to checkout his stamina to see exactly where he was, but I never called for the knockout. I just wanted him to keep beating on Edwin, and I wanted to cause some confusion in the corner as Edwin started falling behind and didn't have an answer. I wanted to kind of send a little [message] back to Ronnie because I thought some of the comments he made to Maxboxing on the VADA issue, you know, I was really surprised. I don't know Ronnie personally, but I've always admired him and I continue to admire him. I always respected him and I continue to respect him. But I did want to rattle him in the corner and I think we were successful doing that and he gave up hope.
BT: As early as the 2nd round, you made the comment to Dre that Rodriguez was trying to get himself disqualified. Did you get that feeling leading up to the fight, or was that based on his actions inside the ring?
VH: Just his antics in the ring in the first and second round indicates to me that he's trying to disqualify himself. I mean, just his last fight; you had a referee, Jack Reiss, came to our dressing room and told us that he informed this kid what he was going to tolerate and what he wasn't going to tolerate, and of course, you know, he gave us our instructions also, but the very thing he said he wasn't going to tolerate, immediately the kid went to it, so he knew these were infractions that were spoken about in the dressing room, so I have to assume that he's tyring to disqualify himself and get out of there if he went right to infractions that he was told specifically not to implement. So he knew, so I had to take that mindset in that approach.
BT: Were you surprised when Edwin didn't make weight for the fight? After weighing in 2 pounds over, do you think he gave an honest effort to try and shed those extra pounds?
VH: Well, no because we were getting reports. I was pretty familiar with his history and his lack of discipline. He even touched on it himself, saying, "This is a fight I'm gonna train as hard as I ever trained in my life. Before, the guys I was fighting, I didn't have to train hard." So he kind of gave it up that he didn't have the discipline or the drive to beat a successful, professional fighter other than the type of opponents they were putting in front of him. But we were getting reports that he was struggling with the weight. And actually, 30 minutes before the weigh-in, some of his own people came up and told me that he was going to be 2 pounds over. They actually told me that. So I told Andre that. I mean, that's quite blatant to me, you know, that his own people would tell me that. I know now in the fighters meeting, he literally lied to, I believe, Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman that he was at weight, that he had no struggles, that he was going to make the weight. They brought the weight issue up and he was drinking water right in front of them, so that lets you know that he never intended to make the weight from the jump, and all of this "I can't do it anymore" and "I can't spit", all that's garbage. He could've made the weight if he really put forth an effort to make the weight. You know, "I didn't have nothing left" and things like that. I think that he knew he wasn't going to win the fight straight up so I think he sought gaining an advantage, and I don't think he was ever interested in a 168-pound belt. I think that if he would've some sort of way pulled out the victory, then he would've just went into the light heavyweight division with a bang; maybe a number one ranking or something like that, but I don't think he ever intended to make the weight.
BT: Obviously you feel like they blatantly disrespected you guys by purposely missing the weight. Is that the reason why your team wanted to make sure that the WBA stuck to their rule of fining him 45% of his purse?
VH: Well, I think that's an issue that's possibly ongoing that I probably shouldn't touch on now, but I think that that book is still open with the WBA. There's a lot going on; a lot that we felt was overlooked that Andre will continue to pursue. All in all, it just wasn't a good situation, but if he would've done his job as a professional fighter, you know, we wouldn't even be in this predicament. So it starts with Edwin Rodriguez and it ends with Edwin Rodriguez. That's what he brought to the table, so evidently, that's what he's about.
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 - VIRGIL HUNTER OPENS UP ON HE AND ANDRE WARD'S HISTORY WITH VICTOR CONTE: "HIS FLAW IS HIS DESIRE FOR ATTENTION"
CLICK HERE FOR PART 3 - VIRGIL HUNTER SPEAKS OUT ON MEDIA CRITICISM OF ANDRE WARD: "YOU'RE OUT OF LINE"