Being undefeated in boxing, even in today's climate of fighters having tailored career paths, is a marvelous feat. Winning a championship belt in multiple weight classes and from multiple boxing federations places a fighter in rarified air. Combined with an Olympic medal, and Andre "S.O.G." Ward has compiled a career resume that pales in comparison to no one.
The 33-year-old from Oakland announced his retirement yesterday.
Ward's main introduction to professional boxing's mainstream came as a participant in the Super Six World Boxing Classic from 2009 to 2011, a tournament that unified the WBA, WBC and The Ring super middleweight titles. Ward defeated British former champion Carl Froch in the tournament final, fortifying his reign on the super middleweight division that lasted until 2015, when he vacated his titles to move up to the light heavyweight division. After losing to Ward, Froch praised his defensive prowess. "Fair credit to Andre Ward," said Froch. "He's very good defensively. I lost the fight, fair and square. It was quite hard to hit him. The name of the game is to not get hit, and he did that well."
Andre Ward was not a flashy boxer. He did not possess an individual supreme athletic gift. He was not the fastest, the strongest or the hardest puncher, though he was well above average in all those areas. But his brilliance was laid in his mind. In a sport where one's strategy may change once his face meets a fist with bad intentions, Ward possessed the ability to process the information in an instant and adjust his in-ring plan accordingly. Look no further than his recent bouts with Russian powerhouse Sergey Kovalev for evidence of this.
After a devastating right hand sent Ward to the canvas in the second round of his first contest with Kovalev, Ward seemed to be staving off an inevitable defeat. But as the fight progressed, Ward seemed to figure out how to time his fists, even as he'd been beaten to the punch by his harder hitting opponent. Ward turned the tide, showing a bigger heart to go along with his clear mind, resulting in a close victory over Kovalev in the first fight.
In the second bout, Ward was much more in control, seeming to have decoded the Russian, eventually stopping Kovalev in the eighth round of their second matchup.
I'm not sure if Ward is in the elite tier of all-time boxing greats. Honestly, I'm not sure if Ward stays retired at 33. But I do know that he was one of the best of this generation. And if he's done throwing perfect check left hooks and counter right hands to the body, then there will be a void that boxing has to fill left by a true champion and beacon of the skill of the sport.
Congratulations, Andre Ward. May retirement be good to you.
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Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse's good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.