The year 2017 just will not stop with top boxers retiring, only this time, it's a unified world champion who is the latest to retire.
Andre Ward, the unified WBA, WBO and IBF light heavyweight champion, announced that he is "leaving" boxing due to a lack of desire and that is body cannot hold up with the rigors of the sport. Ward issued a statement on his website, which can be seen below.
To the sport of boxing – I love you. You’ve been by my side since I was 10-years-old. You’ve taught me so much. You’ve humbled me. You’ve promoted me. I’ve sacrificed a lot for you, but you’ve given me more than I ever thought possible. You gave me a platform, made me a champion and helped me provide for my family. I am forever grateful to you. You and I will always be synonymous, connected at the hip. Thank you for all the wonderful people I’ve come in contact with because of you. I’ve made friends for life. As I walk away from the sport of boxing today, I leave at the top of your glorious mountain, which was always my vision and my dream. I did it. We did it.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has played a part in my journey. You know who you are. I could not have done this without you. I want to be clear – I am leaving because my body can no longer put up with the rigors of the sport and therefore my desire to fight is no longer there. If I cannot give my family, my team, and the fans everything that I have, then I should no longer be fighting. Above all, I give God the Glory, for allowing me to do what I’ve done, for as long as I have.
Ward also posted a minute-long video that can be interpreted as both a Jordan brand commercial and an abridged career retrospective and checklist of Ward's boxing goals before the video ends with Ward walking away from the gym with a peace sign up.
Ward main evented his very first pay-per-view last year when he defeated Sergey Kovalev with the unified light heavyweight titles on the line. Ward won a somewhat controversial decision and the two engaged in a rematch earlier this year, where Ward defeated Kovalev via TKO to retain the titles.
Since winning the rematch, Ward hasn't been linked to any fights other than a potential unification fight with WBC champion Adonis Stevenson, but negotiations never really got past the conceptual phase.
Ward announced last month that his television contract with HBO is done and that he was a free agent. Sources said that Ward was considering signing with Top Rank, and by extension, ESPN, where he would fight under Bob Arum's brand and do occasional broadcast duties. Ward broadcasted boxing cards for both ESPN and HBO in the past month.
Ward was interviewed on ESPN's First Take show today, co-hosted by HBO boxing color commentator Max Kellerman, and further explained the reasoning behind retiring at the top of the division.
"I think the primary reason is, you know, I've been boxing for 23 years and as you guys have heard, this sport takes a toll on you and the cumulative effects of the training and the fights just starts to wear on you. When your physical body starts to wear on you, it takes away your desire and when you don't have the desire and you don't have the ability to physically go out there and fight the way you need to, you shouldn't be in a boxing ring. My goal is to always walk away from the sport and not let the sport retire me and I have an opportunity to do that today... Like I said, people see what I do on fight night under the lights but they don't see the toll, they don't see the grind, they don't see he pain that you go through,not just in the fights but also in preparing for those fights. I'm the type of fighter where everything has to be clicking, everything has to be on point. Again, not just the in-ring stuff, but also the training and preparation has been chipping away at me for the past two years and I bit down and I continued to push through. At this point, it's time and I know it's time," Ward said.
The 33-year-old Ward has been boxing as a pro since 2004 after an incredibly successful amateur career that culminated in him winning an Olympic gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
The last few years of Ward's career has been marred by constant promotional issues with former promoter Dan Goosen, which caused Ward to go without boxing for at least 14 months on two separate occasions.
Ward is also known for being the winner of the Super Six Boxing Classic, going undefeated in the whole tournament and winning the WBA, WBC and The Ring super middleweight titles. Ward retires with a perfect 32-0 record with 16 KO.