When Andre Ward retired from boxing in 2017, three months after his second win over Sergey Kovalev, he left the sport pretty much on top of the world. He was still unbeaten at age 33, still fighting at an elite level, a two-weight champion, and considered by many the best in the world pound-for-pound.
Ward, now 35, has stayed connected with the sport, working as a manager to Shakur Stevenson and as an analyst, first for HBO and now for ESPN’s revitalized boxing brand. And since we see him all the time, it’s clear he’s stayed in shape, meaning people speculate now and again if there’s a chance he’ll fight again.
But no idea seemed particularly worthwhile or potentially serious until now. When Canelo Alvarez moved up to 175 pounds to beat Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 2, winning a world title in a fourth weight class, talk of Ward (32-0, 16 KO) possibly coming back for a huge money fight with Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KO) picked up.
On Friday, Ward spoke on SportsCenter about the idea, admitting he’s had a lot of calls, but ultimately saying he isn’t interested.
“I’m not coming out of retirement to fight Canelo Alvarez,” he said. “There’s been a lot of talk, when (Canelo-Kovalev) was signed, and then obviously since Canelo got the victory over Sergey Kovalev. My phone has been blowing up non-stop, there’s been a lot of pressure from individuals in the business, entertainers, you name it trying to pull me out. It’s just not something I’m interested in doing.”
Ward wants to be clear, though: he’s not avoiding a fight with Alvarez, it’s simply that he’s retired and prefers to remain that way.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fighter at heart. It’s not hard to talk me into a fight, it’s actually harder to talk me off the ledge,” he said. “I have great team members, we sit down and talk about these things, and I have to keep my word and stick to my conviction that I made Sept. 21, 2017. I feel like I’m a better asset to the sport of boxing, my family, my church, all the things I’m doing as a retired fighter, than I would be if I came back.”
This is Ward’s statement, but I wouldn’t be so quick to count it out just yet, because this is boxing, and we’ve seen a lot of greats enticed into returning for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s money, sometimes it’s just the itch to fight again. DAZN are paying Canelo Alvarez a lot of money to fight, and a matchup with Ward is surely up there with the biggest he could conceivably get any time soon.
Ward admits he’s already heard the pressure, and that probably won’t stop any time soon. Eventually, it might get him back, with an offer too big to turn down.