I am a big fan of boxers walking away from the sport when they are still on top. It happens all too rarely. It can be disappointing to see a great athlete struggle past his prime in any sport. But in boxing, it can be a tragedy. If a baseball player can no longer catch up to fast ball or get a jump on a fly ball, he embarrass himself. If a fighter can no longer defend himself, he risk permanent head trauma.
So when I read on Rolling Stone that Andre Ward was considering retirement, I thought more power to him. While he has not made anything like the fortunes that Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao accrued, he has done much better than most people just north of 30. And he has always seemed like a down-to-earth, family man who approaches his finances with responsibility.
The fan in me would certainly love to see him fight a rematch with Sergey Kovalev. Given how close the fight was and how hotly the result has been debated, Kovalev definitely deserves a rematch, if Ward plans to continue campaigning. If you barely manage to take the champ’s title, you owe him a chance to win it back.
But if Ward feels retirement is the best decision for himself and his family, that’s his right.
I would disagree that there is nothing left for Ward to accomplish. Aside from defeating Kovalev in a rematch, there is a collection of very talented light heavyweight contenders right now. Russia’s Artur Beterbiev and Ukraine’s Oleksandr Gvozdyk are both outstanding talents. A win over either of them might mean a great deal in the fullness of time.
If Ward retired today, he would be a Hall of Famer. I would also rate him the top super middleweight in history. Fighting in that division he defeated three likely future Hall oF Famers in Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch.
But 168 pounds is a half weight class with a short history. Measured alongside the legends who have fought at full light heavyweight, Ward is still not even close to top 10. But the division right now has enough talent so that is Ward cleaned it out in a similar fashion to what he did at 168, he would be in all the conversations.
That would mean a few more years of hard training and great physical risk, though. And if Ward is not all in for pursuing such a course, he is right to walk away.