Hall of Fame fighter Andre Ward retired at the age of 33 in September 2017 with an unblemished record of 32 wins.
The announcement came three months after Ward stopped Sergey Kovalev in a rematch to defend his light heavyweight titles.
“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,” Ward said at the time.
As the 2004 Olympics gold medalist and former 168-pound champion Ward transitioned from the ring to the broadcast booth, the current undisputed super middleweight champion and former light heavyweight titlist Canelo Alvarez was beginning his ascent in the divisions Ward had previously conquered.
Alvarez started fighting at 168 pounds in 2018 and 175 pounds for the first time in 2019 against Kovalev by knocking out the Russian.
Ward, now 39, believes an Alvarez fight would never have happened even if were to remain active during those years.
“Nah, I don’t think he would have fought me,” Ward said in an interview with sports commentator Stephen A. Smith.
“My name was never mentioned with Canelo Alvarez until he fought a common opponent and he fought Sergey Kovalev. Kovalev, I don’t want to say he was shot, but he was on his way out the door. He wasn’t the ‘Krusher’ at that point in time. That’s a strategic move, and that’s what Canelo does. People get mad when you say that. He’s earned the right. He’s in the position with the fanfare that he has with a country behind him to pick and choose who he likes. That’s cool. You can do that. The only problem I have is when we start mentioning his name with the all-time great fighters – I have a problem with that because I am looking at the resume. And a lot of times the people point out the names, right? He beat this guy … no. When did he beat them? Oh, he was past his prime. People don’t know to look for those kinds of things. They just say it’s a name. But I respect Canelo for what he’s done and what he’s doing. But I don’t believe that if I was still active at that time he fought Kovalev he would have fought me because my name was never mentioned in the same breath as Canelo Alvarez. If I was active, I think it would have remained that way.”
Ward has previously been critical of Alvarez’s resume.
Alvarez is still boxing’s biggest breadwinner and arguably the sport’s most recognized international star. He recently was featured on the cover of Forbes Magazine and is the world’s fifth highest-paid athlete.
Nowadays, the public is pounding the table for Alvarez to fight David Benavidez. Alvarez clapped back at his critics who insinuated he was ducking “The Mexican Monster” Benavidez.
“Yeah it always happens – Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout, Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Gennady Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs, Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders … at the end of the day, I beat practically all of them,” Alvarez said this week when speaking to a group of reporters.
“If I beat Benavidez, they’re gonna say, ‘Oh, why don’t you face this other guy?’ Look at my history, I’ve done everything in boxing. I’ve done it all … In this moment I’m the king and I can do whatever I want … I’m always here to make the best fights.”
As for Ward, he’s considered a comeback to face the likes of Alvarez but never followed through.
“Yeah, of course [I’ve thought about coming out of retirement for a fight of that magnitude]. I am hard-wired to compete,” said Ward. “It’s like I’ve had to retire multiple times. I’ve had to talk myself off the ledge [of coming out of retirement] multiple times. It’s not easy. Retirement is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life … It’s been six years and nobody has called my name. There is a reason for that.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer, and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com, or via www.ManoukAkopyan.com.