He is a Hall of Fame talent, who did the boxing thing Sinatra style, most definitely his way….and this includes the announcement on this Thursday, Sept 21 that he is hanging up the gloves. No more boxing, Andre Ward told us via a one minute video which signaled that he'd accomplished what he wanted to accomplish in the squared circle, and now it was time for new challenges, which don't include dodging launches from trained fistic snipers.
“As I transition from being a professional boxer to the next phase of my life, I plan to celebrate my retirement with family and close friends. In due course, I will make myself available for interviews. I sincerely appreciate the space, as well as your support and understanding. Looking forward to crossing paths again soon,” was the message Andre Ward offered to folks like me who wanted to process the news, congratulate him and get into the whys and hows.
That will come, in time, on his schedule. He did go on an ESPN show to give some insight into his timing.
Makes sense for the 33 year old, who leaves the sport with a 32-0 (15 KOs) mark, and a sure slot in the Hall of Fame in five years. He ascended after Olympic success–gold at light heavy–and exploded when he won Showtime's 168 Super Six tourney. And then he desired more control, freedom, and he sat himself on the shelf while he worked to obtain that. His beef with promoter Dan Goossen made him a bad guy in many eyes, being that Goossen enjoyed the rep as an amiable lifer who wasn't in the Don King mode in the way boxers sometimes complained he treated them.
Andre Ward didn't fold to any public critiques–he wanted things to be done his way. And after a span of time he maneuvered himself into an advantageous deal with Roc Nation. Two showy wins over Russian terminator Sergey Kovalev capped a career begun in 2004.
He was the number one pound for pound fighter off and on, arguably, when Floyd Mayweather was “retired,” but he'd not proclaim that title…he'd say that was for others to decide.
Appreciation did pour in from some circles. “Andre Ward ends his boxing career as he only knew how to live it — as a champion at the top,” says Peter Nelson, Executive Vice President, HBO Sports. “To watch Ward was to marvel at constant mastery of craft in the ring, to say nothing of his being the consummate role model outside it. The Hall of Fame will be lucky to have him. We wish Andre and his family much success and happiness as he explores new opportunities, including with our own HBO family as one of the expert analysts on our broadcast team. It was a privilege for HBO to serve as the television platform for many of his landmark achievements in the sport he loves.”
Andre Ward as a public figure wasn't easy to categorize; he wore his religiosity on his sleeve but didn't kowtow as one might expect a servant of God to do, not often enough for naysayers. So, the occasion of his retirement won't draw a uniform response, across the board adulation and admiration. That may or nay not irk him, he probably wouldn't admit it if it were so… Ward wasn't totally comfortable allowing the vulnerability needed to share the ups and downs of his back story, which would have made him more identifiable and accessible to more of the masses…but regardless, no tears I don't think are due Ward for that.
Yes, and the complexity of his character and behavior and all came through in the responses to his retirement.
Sergey Kovalev at the Wednesday press conference in NY to hype his Nov. 25 comeback fight said that Andre Ward leaving will be good for boxing, that it will mean more fan friendly fights for his vacated titles. Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva was asked for her take. “I guess Sergey retired him after all!”
Ward did it all his way, his talent was given 2 by the truly astute minds, he leaves with head held high, his record as a fighter spotless. Boxing has now lost their top two practitioners of the sweet science, Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward, in the same period. Get ready to hit Canastota in 2022, y'all, and pay respects then.
Lastly, Ward is yet another example of someone who found a home in a ring. His upbringing wasn't smooth or easy, and like so many before, he found meaning and solace in a counter-intuitive place. In the ring, he learned to master his domain, escape danger, gain the upper hand, exit the victor.
Thank you for your service to the sport, Andre Ward. Best of luck on the next chapter.
NOTE: Photos, captions and some links were added to this story on Nov. 22, 2021