Like most boxing fans around the world, my jaw hit the floor when I got the Bleacher Report update telling me that Andre Ward was retiring from boxing. “Shocked” doesn’t even begin to express how I felt. My day is totally ruined, because I sincerely believe that Andre was an important piece of the plan to return boxing to it’s rightful place among major sports.
It’s a well-known fact that boxing has been in a slump for the better part of the 21st century. We are long departed from boxing’s “glory days,” when the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World was the most prominent (and popular) individual sports title one could hold. The sport has been in a self-imposed downward spiral, because of greed, poor organization, and a flat out lack of charismatic talents.
Boxing isn’t just dying—it committed suicide. When the sport moved to a Pay-Per-View model for it’s largest fights, it lost a demographic that was unable or unwilling to pay $80 to watch a match (i.e. MOST PEOPLE), thus losing a national platform for it’s brightest stars (and losing exposure for the next generation of possible fighters). Mix that with the infrequency of fights, lack of desirable matchups (just think about how long we had to wait for Mayweather and Pacquiau to fight), and there being way too many weight classes/champions, and it’s easy to understand why boxing can’t compete with the popularity of the NBA, NFL, MLB, or even NHL.
But then there was Andre Ward.
I could start naming accomplishments and milestones, but that wouldn’t really do him justice, nor would it underscore the point I want to make. Andre is flat-out fun to watch, plain and simple.
- He’s a switch hitter, which means he can easily switch between southpaw and orthodox stance, creating a really interesting predicament for those fighting him.
- Andre has a grace and fluidity rarely seen in boxing today. For context, anyone that really watches boxing will tell you that Andre was the most adaptable fighter in the sport, with the exception of Floyd Mayweather.
- He was also so much smarter than his opponents, playing chess while they were only capable of checkers.
- Not that this matters to boxing, but it matters to me as a fan: Andre is a good guy. He married his high school sweetheart, participates in youth outreach efforts, visits prisons to mentor prisoners, etc. Just an all-around great guy.
He attracted new fans. He re-engaged fans that had left the sport. And he made boxing EXCITING again. Guys did everything in their power to avoid fighting him, because he would exhaust them, confuse them, and ultimately–beat them.
If you didn’t get a chance to watch Andre while he was active, I’m sorry. You really missed out. In my unpopular opinion, he was a better fighter than Roy Jones Jr (also a super middleweight) and in a few more fights, he could have made a very strong case for it.
Nevermind the shoulda coulda wouldas. The fact is, the pound-for-pound king of boxing is leaving the ring for good, and taking his fans with him. The Canelo v GGG fight took boxing a step forward, but losing Andre Ward took it two steps back. And I’m not sure what that means for the sport, but what I do know for certain is that boxing absolutely needed him.
See some of Andre’s highlights HERE.