I’m a fan of Andre Ward and I’m not afraid to say it, but at the same time, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Light Heavyweight champion over the course of the last four years.
While Ward is one of the best fighters in the world and is almost prodigious with his work inside the ring, he’s irritating to the point of no return outside of it. For every dominant performance and stunning win, there is an unnecessary drama and hoopla that overshadows it.
I was thrilled when he won the Super Six tournament and thought he deserved the slight nod over Sergey Kovalev last year, but I wasn’t so quick to sing his praises when he was trying to breach his contract with Dan Goossen many times over and currently not a fan of his inaction since the Kovalev fight.
When news broke last week that Ward was going to play a part in managing Olympian Shakur Stevenson and his most recent work even near a boxing ring was calling Chris Eubanks Jr’s most recent fight, it is starting to look like Ward is finding a way to make himself comfortable outside of the ring.
Couple that with his recent rhetoric about potentially retiring instead of giving Kovalev a deserved rematch indicates that Ward might be serious about calling it a career, and that is unacceptable to the fans who stuck by him and the sport in general.
Usually when a fighter implements a retirement angle, it is basically a negotiation tool to indicate to his opponent or even his own boss that he wants to sweeten the pot just a bit before he takes another step. Ward mentioned many times after the Kovalev fight that he wanted more favorable terms for a rematch—just right around the time he started mentioning retirement.
Since then, rematch talks have been null and Ward’s only talk about actually fighting have comprised of chiding Kovalev’s antics as being a sore loser and downplaying a potential fight with Eubanks after commentating at ringside. Though I still believe Ward is going to fight Kovalev again, it is clear he’s waiting for terms to better reflect what he wants, be it a bigger split of the purse or an interim fight before his contractually obligated rematch.
He better, because while Ward has done enough in his career at this point to be considered one of the greats of this era and has probably earned a spot in the Hall of Fame should he retire, this isn’t the time to walk away.
Of course, it’s really all up to him and it always has been. Ward wasted the prime of his career futilely trying to break his contract with Goossen for the right to dictate his career on his terms, and if he feels that he’s accomplished everything he’s needed to do in the sport, then God bless him and I wish him well. Very few fighters can say they ended things on their terms and walked away with a clear head on their shoulders and money in the bank, and Ward is not wanting to have the usual “beaten and broke” stereotypical ending to his career.
Chances are, Ward may find himself a very capable manager with Stevenson and get a stable of fighters under his guidance even more so affirming his intentions to step away from the ring. If that’s the case, then so be it, I can’t blame him for moving on to better things.
Then again, there is a sense of finality in one (or two) more bouts with Kovalev to legitimize a victory not many people believe he earned. Should he do it, then boxing as a whole would be fine to let him go with no faults, and the sport wouldn’t be left with a “what if” fight that has absolutely no reason to fall apart now.