He is a polarising figure in the world of boxing but he leaves an incredible legacy.
Andre Ward – ‘the Son of God’ won all of his 32 fights initially fighting at super middleweight and then moving up to light heavyweight. The American Olympic gold medallist, which he won in Athens in 2004, captured belts at both weights and was widely considered the pound for pound number 1 after Floyd Mayweather retired. Citing his lack of drive due to the toll training camps have taken on him over the years as his reason on retiring we take a look back at his career.
Before we look back at Ward’s career it is important to understand why he has retired. He turned professional in 2004 which makes it a 13 year stint in the pro game. His words after the announcement spoke volumes;
“People see what I do fight night. They see under the lights, but they don’t see the toil, they don’t see the grind, they don’t see just the pain, the physical pain that you go through, not just in the fights, but to prepare and to get ready for those battles.” (Andre Ward)
It is true that fight fans both casual and more intense forget the hard work that the fighters put in. The preparation to get into the right shape to be able to get into the ring is intense and it only increases as bigger fights are made. The level Ward competed at for so long effects a person and it cannot last forever. In his mind he has achieved everything he has set out to do and the effort and work needed to prepare for fight night just does not seem worth it any more.
It is difficult to see why Ward is not universally loved by fight fans. He is a game fighter who has moved up weight and became a two weight world champion. His slick skills make for an interesting watch but perhaps not the most entertaining style. Issues with promoters may have had an effect on Ward’s career. A long time feud and a court case, which meant he missed some time in the sport, with Dan Goossen changed the public opinion on Ward. The boxing community turned on the fighter and the media changed their opinion because of that.
There were complaints from the critics saying that the standard of fighter Ward came up against after returning from the court case were not good enough and that he was just going through the motions. His style was also under more scrutiny. While he was never the biggest puncher it was now suggested he was a fighter set up to ruin fights. To negate the opponents strengths and edge through.
Through his career he has faced top class opponents at both weights he campaigned at. Victory in the Super Six World Boxing Classic between 2009 and 2011 saw he beat Carl Froch in the final. Froch became a critic of Ward’s style and the pair have exchanged comments in interviews since then.
His final encounters with Kovalev stands out as the exclamation point on his career. Kovalev is a monster at light heavyweight and up there in the pound for pound rankings with Ward. This was the biggest test of the American’s career. Winning the first fight even after being dropped early in the fight was not enough for most of his critics. Home advantage was put forward as the reason Ward took the victory. In all honesty the fight was a close one. Kovalev started quickly but Ward was able to come back into the fight down the stretch. The decision could have gone either way.
The rematch was an obvious one to make. Kovalev wanted another crack at Ward and for some reason the winner of the first bout had not done enough to convince the world he won the first encounter. It gave Ward the stage to make a statement and he did. The fight was competitive but Ward’s work to the body was he key to success. He was able to slow his opponent down and take the wind out of him. The stoppage may have been controversial but it was a double over Kovalev that confirmed Ward as a legend in the sport.
As Mayweather says you need something extra to be the best. Who knows what that is? It is hard to say. Ward had a great amateur career, great skills and the ambition to push himself to fight the best. Boxing is changing. To be the top draw you need a certain personality trait that makes you stand out. It is not enough to simply be one of the best boxers of your generation any more. Ward was certainly that. One of the best boxers to compete in his generation. Perhaps over time his legacy and standing in the sport will be increased to were it should be.
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