Written By Bakari Simpson: In somewhat sudden fashion, the great 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward nicknamed “S.O.G.” (32-0, 16 KO’s) announced his retirement from boxing today. For many this will come as a thunderous surprise. For others, the news will be anything but jarring or unexpected.
Directly after toppling Sergey Kovalev in their first outing Ward let it be known he was contemplating retirement. This took place last November. Personally, at that time, when I heard Andre talking about retirement I thought he was fooling with the press. Yet, in later follow-up interviews, Ward reaffirmed the notion that he had seriously envisioned retirement.
Apparently, haggling with the mental and physical rigors of the sport for over twenty years had taken its toll on Ward. Unlike so many other professional pugilists, Ward made sure to watch over his career earnings carefully. Having done so, there was no intrinsic need for Andre to continue fighting. The California native is professionally undefeated, has dominated the super middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions and vanquished his biggest rival in Kovalev twice. Having accomplished all these mighty tasks Ward is content to walk away from the fighting arts.
In the last number of years, Ward was something of a polarizing character in boxing. On the one hand, you’d be hard pressed to find a better role model for up-and-coming boxers. Inside the ring, SOG has been unbeaten since the age of 13, retained his same coach, Virgil Hunter, since that time, and remained unvanquished as a professional. Ward consistently took on the toughest assignments that he could find. Outside the ring, Andre was a dedicated family man, a devout Christian and has never been involved in controversy.
Prior to his back-to-back Sergey Kovalev wins, the crown jewel of his resume was controlling the Super Six Tournament back in 2009-11. This round-robin tournament was set up to unearth the best boxer in the Super Middleweight division. Not only did Ward win, he dominated. For me, the bout with Carl Froch will always stand out to me as one of Ward’s finest hours. This is because after the match had concluded, Ward revealed that he entered the ring with a broken hand. To come to realize that he dominated and outclassed Froch with a one-busted paw truly captivated me.
Despite his in the ring dominance, there have always been those who sought to knock Ward down a peg. It’d be lunacy to deny his talent or skill, so rather than do this his critics love to say, ‘he’s good, just not as good as they say.’ The perfect example of this is when boxing icon Teddy Atlas ranked Lomachenko above Andre Ward and Terrence Crawford. Atlas announced this on a television broadcast that he was working with both Ward and Crawford. Ever since that segment Atlas has been ridiculed and made the butt of countless jokes and online memes. This incident only served to highlight the tremendous gulf between non-boxers and boxers on the perception of Andre Ward’s worth. As far as professional fighters go, you would be hard pressed to find someone disparaging Ward. Outside of Sergey Kovalev that is!
In the short time that Ward has made this announcement public social media outlets were flooded with countless boxers voicing their respect. A large contingent of the sports finest talent has been expressing their esteem and admiration for the fighting phenomenon. The heartfelt words have been impressive and touching.
As boxing fan, it is sad to see Ward leave, especially when it seems he has so much left in the tank. Although, on the flip side, it is great to see a fighter walk away on their terms, with money in the bank and all their faculties in working order. In a profession as brutal as boxing is, this is just about the perfect Hollywood ending that one could imagine. I hope that Floyd and Ward’s retirement set a new standard for up and coming fighters.
To Andre Ward, his family and team, thank you for all the backbreaking, thankless years of grinding and dedication. In the ring, you were a lithe and lethal chameleon who assumed whatever form was necessary to obtain victory. The numerous transformations were mesmerizing as well as awe-inspiring. Thanks for all the blood, sweat and tears! Now it is time to truly sit back and enjoy the fruit of your labors. Enjoy your retirement; you’ll never be replaced!
Bakari Simpson INSTAGRAM: @s.larry_love FACEBOOK: Bakari Simpson