By Keith Idec
His retirement from boxing has been harder than Andre Ward anticipated, yet not so difficult that he regrets his decision.
The undefeated Ward assured HBO’s Jim Lampley during a segment of “The Fight Game” that aired for the first time Wednesday night that he isn’t second-guessing retiring. Ward is 33, young for a retired boxer, and walked away from the sport when he was the top-ranked fighter on most prominent pound-for-pound lists.
“I don’t think there’s second thoughts,” Ward told Lampley. “But I will tell you this – retirement is a lot harder than I thought it would be. You know, I’ve read about athletes retiring, fighters retiring. I’ve heard about it. I studied it, kind of what’s the right time and those kind of things. But there’s a detox that has to take place. I’ve been doing this 23 years straight, and then, all of a sudden, it’s gone. And it’s a process. But it’s a process that I felt I had to undertake. I’m up for the challenge and I just hope to be someone that the younger fighters can point to and say, ‘He did it the right way.’ ”
Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) announced his retirement on his website September 21, three months following his second controversial victory over Russian knockout artist Sergey Kovalev.
The Oakland, California, native stopped Kovalev in the eighth round of their light heavyweight championship rematch June 17 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. That win caused controversy because Ward, who had hurt Kovalev badly with a right hand, landed several questionable body blows before referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop their scheduled 12-round rematch.
Ward recovered from a second-round knockdown to win their first fight by unanimous decision in November 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. That decision sparked great debate because it was a closely contested bout many fans and media believe Kovalev won.
Regardless, Ward was one of the most successful fighters of this generation and retired with an unblemished professional record. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist was the undisputed super middleweight champion before moving up to win the IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight titles from Kovalev.
If he remains retired, Ward will join legends like the late Rocky Marciano (49-0, 43 KOs) and Marvin Hagler (62-3-2, 52 KOs) by retiring from boxing relatively young, while they still could compete at the elite level.
Marciano was 32 when he retired as heavyweight champion in April 1956. Hagler was 33 when he retired following his controversial, split-decision defeat to “Sugar” Ray Leonard, who won the WBC middleweight title from Hagler in April 1987.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.