On Thursday, current pound-for-pound king Andre Ward announced his retirement from boxing, at the age of 33. Ward leaves with a perfect professional record of 32-0 with 16 KOs. An Olympic gold medalist in 2004, Ward has in fact not lost a boxing match of any sort, professional or amateur, since he was in grade school.
Ward emerged as an elite talent between 2009 and 2011, thanks to the Showtime Super Six, Super Middleweight Tournament. Viewed as an underdog heading into the tournament, he instead rolled through a murderer’s row of 168-pound stars. He beat Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch with stunning ease.
In September 2012 lineal light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson dropped down to 168 pounds to challenge Ward. Ward battered him, knocking him down in Rounds 3 and 4 and a third time in Round 10, leading to a referee’s stoppage. Dawson was never the same fighter again.
What could have been the best years of Wards career were lost to inactivity, as Ward battled his former promoters in the courtroom and fought just once between September 2012 and June 2015. But since his return, Ward has recorded the most memorable part of his career, fighting at light heavyweight.
In November of last year, Ward had the only truly tough fight of his career, facing the Russian monster Sergey Kovalev. Ward had to climb off the canvas in Round 2 and took control during the second half of the fight, to earn a narrow unanimous decision. Ward won the rematch this past June, stopping Kovalev in Round 8.
Ward will be walking away at the top of his career. Retirement is often temporary in boxing, but I will not be surprised if Ward is truly done with the sport. A devout Christian, he has always been more interested in cultivating his family life than his public image. I would be surprised if he has not handled his money well during his career.
I do worry that fans will not give Ward the credit he deserves for his remarkable career. He defeated very good and even great fighters again and again in one-sided fights. Froch and Kessler are sure Hall of Famers and Abraham, Froch and Kovalev all likely. Only Kovalev even gave Ward a competitive bout, and only in their first fight.