For many, the defining moment in the career of Andre Ward came in 2016, against Sergey Kovalev, with Ward cementing his legacy by rising off the canvas to outpoint the feared Russian puncher in their first fight.

At the time, Ward was a former dominant super middleweight who had recently moved up to light heavyweight, where he would enjoy the same measure of success.

Then came his epic turn facing the unbeaten, fearsome slugger in Kovalev. Speaking to his former sparring partner Brandon Gonzales at Capitol Punishment, Ward’s amateur boxing event, Ward recalled the first thought he had that night when, in the second round, he hit the canvas:

I got to get him back,” Ward said. “I wasn’t supposed to be down there. I worked my whole career, my life, to stay off the canvas. I don’t even do sit-ups on the canvas. I don’t stretch on the canvas. I don’t do nothing on the canvas. I go on the floor to do it.”

Ward displayed something that most people tune into boxing to witness: resolve. Against Kovalev in that first fight, he needed to bite down and fight back in order to win a unanimous decision. And then he did.

Everything about Ward’s win over Kovalev felt like something from a bygone era and, not surprisingly, he has since been labeled a throwback fighter.

“Because my whole [thing is], we are not supposed to be down there,” Ward said of being knocked down. “It happens, but I’m just happy that I knew what to do when I got knocked down. I knew to roll over, get myself together, get up.

“I don’t think you can really teach – and the coaches know what I am saying – I don’t know if you can teach that kind of toughness, and a grit and a resolve. You can encourage it. Like, ‘Come on, you got to go, you got to fight, you got to hit them back.’ But that thing in you when somebody hits you and you want to get them back? I don’t know if you can teach that.”

Ward defeated Kovalev twice. After stopping Kovalev in the rematch in June 2017, Ward retired four days later – and has stayed retired. He finished with a record of 32-0 with 16 knockouts.

Kovalev (35-4-1, 29 KOs) has continued his career with mixed success, fighting seven times since and going 5-2 in those fights. He is scheduled to return May 18 in Saudi Arabia against Robin Safar in his second fight at cruiserweight.