It has been nearly a full year since Edwin Rodriguez suffered the first defeat of his career against super middleweight champion Andre Ward last November.
After undergoing elbow surgery in December, Rodriguez saw a handful of possible return fights fall through.
But Rodriguez (24-1, 16 KOs), a native of the Dominican Republic who fights out of Worcester, Massachusetts, will make his return Saturday in a new weight class.
Rodriguez, 29, makes the move to light heavyweight when he faces Azea Augustama (17-1, 9 KOs) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California (HBO Latino, tape-delayed, 12:30 a.m. ET). The fight takes place on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin's middleweight title defense against Marco Antonio Rubio.
Known as "La Bomba," Rodriguez took time away from training to talk with ESPN.com about his loss to Ward and what his future plans are at 175 pounds:
You failed to make weight in your last bout against Andre Ward. Has making 168 pounds become something that is no longer realistic for you?
Entering the negotiation for the Ward fight, it was more the fact of not having a manager, then signing up with Al Haymon and having just taken my family on a vacation. I didn't keep track of my weight, and I got all the way up to 217. So coming down for eight weeks to 168, my whole training camp was about losing the weight. It was hard to follow the game plan and prepare for that type of fight when I had so much weight to lose. It backfired on me, so I knew that it was time to move up and not have to stress about weight as much. This fight coming up now is a new beginning for me. I have to come in and make a statement to let everyone know that I had a bad day at the office in my last fight, but it's not going to define my career.
Looking back on how the Ward fight played out in the ring, what went wrong for you?
I was disappointed in myself with the whole situation and not being able to be on my best. I know that Andre Ward is a great fighter and he did a lot of things right. He has been doing that for years and has a very difficult style. But I just made it more difficult on myself by not being 100 percent. I have to take my hat off to him, though. He is a very dedicated fighter and very focused. Maybe he was more focused than me before the fight, and during the fight, I wasn't able to make changes to his style. He was able to figure me out, and by the time I was able to figure him out a bit, the fight was over.
How much of your strategy was built upon looking to rough him up on the inside?
I knew that he likes fighting on the inside and likes holding. But I didn't know that when he holds you, he is also looking to take advantage and put his arms in different positions where your arms are tied up. You are tied up and trying to get your arms out and then he's coming around with a left hook on the inside. It was frustrating because nobody else does that, and he is really good at that. He did a lot of things right that night.
How hard was it to suffer your first loss and lose that feeling of invincibility?
It was tough, and not just because I lost the "0," but because I wasn't the best that I can be. That's what bothered me the most. I knew that Andre Ward was a very physical fighter and tough to beat even at my best. But not being able to be the best that I can be made me disappointed with myself.
How different of a fighter will you need to be at 175 pounds?
I think that moving up is a relief because I'm not frustrated about how much weight I have to lose today or tomorrow. I still have to work hard to make weight, but it's not where I am dehydrated weeks before a fight without eating. Coming in with this type of mentality and not having to struggle, I'm going to be stronger in the fight. I know that I'm big and strong enough to hang with any 175-pounder in the world. I'm excited to go in there, show them what I have and let them know that I'm a true player at 175 pounds.
Considering light heavyweight is a hot division at the moment, where do you think you fit in?
I will fit in real well. I think I will be stronger moving up to 175, because getting down to 168, I left it all in the gym. But now I am healthy. I feel great.
What kind of fight are you expecting against Augustama?
I know that he had a pretty good amateur background and was a Golden Gloves national champion. He fought in the Olympics for Haiti. I know that he has good boxing skills and good speed. He's a good fighter and this is a good fight for me to get back on HBO and impress.
What is your take on how the Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev fight will play out on Nov. 8?
I think that Hopkins' boxing ability is the kryptonite [for Kovalev]. Although Hopkins is old right now, he doesn't show it. His foot movement is really going to play a big part in beating him. I have Hopkins beating Kovalev.
When you look at the way things are headed politically in boxing, how important for your career was it to sign with adviser Al Haymon?
It was huge. It was truly important because being with Al Haymon -- and working with Lou DiBella, as well -- gave me options. So I'm happy with the decision I made. [Haymon] is the best manager in boxing. And having DiBella, who has been my promoter since basically my eighth pro fight -- with these two guys working together for me, it's what I needed. I have good relationships with HBO and Showtime and I'm in a good position.
With Haymon also representing light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, is that the one fight that is most on your radar?
He's the real champion. He knocked out Chad Dawson with one punch to become the champion. Adonis Stevenson is the man right now so that's who I am looking to fight down the road. I know that first I have [Augustama] in front of me and I have to look good in this fight to send a message.
Above all else, what needs to go right for you on Saturday in order to defeat Augustama?
It's not just about getting the victory, it's about looking good. I didn't look too good the last fight so this time I need to do more than just look good. I'm ready to get back in the ring. It has almost been a year now and I am ready to put it all together and be the best that I can be.