By Keith Idec
Andre Ward is thankful that he has had several constructive distractions during the 11 months since he announced his retirement.
Hosting the upcoming season of the revamped reality series “The Contender” filled part of the void Ward felt when he walked away from boxing as the sport’s consensus No. 1 fighter, pound-for-pound.
The 34-year-old Ward admits there are still days when it’s hard to completely remove himself from the life that consumed him for most of his life. The former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion combats those urges, though, and is firmly committed to remaining retired.
“I have no plans on coming back,” Ward told BoxingScene.com on Tuesday following a press conference in New York to promote “The Contender” premiere Friday night.
“I know the history of this sport and boxing doesn’t wanna let you go that easily. I’m gonna be asked about this for a long time to come and you never know what the future may hold. But again, I’m not planning on it. But I keep myself in shape and I’m a fighter, man. That mentality is not gonna go away just because I’m doing other things.
“That being said, I couldn’t have scripted this past year any better than it’s been playing out. You wonder, as a fighter or just any athlete or just any person that’s gonna retire, what’s next or what’s gonna come about. And my close group of family and friends would always say, ‘Listen, opportunities are gonna come. You’ve done it the right way. Don’t worry about it.’ ”
It was particularly difficult for Ward to retire last September because the 2004 Olympic gold medalist from Hayward, California, knows he “still has something left in the tank.” The undefeated Ward was just 33 and a mere three months removed from an eighth-round stoppage of Sergey Kovalev in their light heavyweight championship rematch when he announced his retirement.
Unlike many boxers who fight too long, the cerebral Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) has taken the same sensible approach toward life after boxing that he usually employed in the ring.
“Me and my wife have done good with our finances,” said Ward, who recently signed a long-term broadcasting contract with ESPN. “We’re fine financially, but I’m still a young man. You wanna be active. You still wanna continue to be passionate about other things. And sure enough, it happened. Like I never would’ve thought ‘The Contender’ would’ve called and I would’ve been hosting a show that I was once a fan of. ‘Creed II’ is coming out Thanksgiving weekend. That was a blessing to be a part of.
“I’m working on my book. I’m working on my documentary. So I think these projects, just like ‘The Contender,’ have really helped me in this first year of retirement and just helped me to focus on some other things, instead of just mulling over the decision that I made.”
The new, 12-episode season of “The Contender” will debut on EPIX on Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.