By Keith Idec
Andre Ward has had enough of boxing, physically and mentally, as an active participant.
That’s basically the way Ward explained his decision to retire Thursday during a phone appearance on ESPN’s “First Take.” Ward told moderator Molly Qerim, Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith that boxing had taken too much of a toll on his body and mind for him to continue fighting, despite that the undefeated light heavyweight champion is just 33 years old.
“I think the primary reason, you know, is I’ve been boxing 23 years, total time,” Ward said. “And, you know, obviously this sport, as you’ve guys have heard in many contact sports, it takes a toll on you. And just the accumulative effect of all the training and all the fights, it just starts to wear on you. And when you’re physical body starts to wear on you, then it starts to take your desire. And when you don’t have the desire, and you don’t have the ability, physically, to go out there and prepare the way you need to, you shouldn’t be in a boxing ring. So my goal was always to walk away from this sport and retire from the sport, and to not let the sport retire me. And I have that opportunity today.”
Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) retired as the IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight champion. The Hayward, California native was considered the undisputed super middleweight champion before he moved up from 168 pounds to 175 and was widely viewed as the top boxer, pound-for-pound, in the sport before Thursday’s announcement.
The 2004 Olympic gold medalist just couldn’t motivate himself to go through the rigors of another training camp, no matter how much money he might’ve made.
“People see what I do fight nights,” Ward said. “They see under the lights. But they don’t see the toil, they don’t see the grind, they don’t see just the pain, the physical pain that you go through again, not just in the fights, but to prepare and get ready for those battles. And I’m the type of fighter where everything has to be clicking, everything has to be on point. And I’ve felt the physicality of the sport and even, again, not just in-the-ring stuff, but the training and the preparation started to take its toll on me for the past two, three years.
“And I bit down, and continued to push through. And, you know, at this point, it’s time. And I know it’s time. And I’ve studied retirements. Those same guys that you just mentioned, I’ve studied those guys and how they walked away and who came back and all these different things. And I’ve talked to a lot of different guys, and they’ve always told me, ‘You’re just going to know when it’s time.’ And nobody else will know but you. And I feel like that time is now.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.