Andre Ward not considering return but bout with Anthony Joshua could be too good to pass up
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Andre Ward remains a relevant figure in boxing even though he no longer fights, and on this Thursday, he was at The Forum in his role as host of the latest iteration of The Contender.
The live finale airs Friday on Epix, with middleweights Shane Mosley Jr. and Brandon Adams competing for the $250,000 prize, but it was Ward who was still the main attraction at the news conference a year-and-a-half after his final bout.
More often than not boxing retirements are merely a brief respite from grueling training camps. Sugar Ray Leonard came back, even though it took him almost three years. Floyd Mayweather has ended his retirement too many times to count.
What would it take for Ward to follow in their footsteps?
“I don’t really know because I’m not thinking about it,” Ward, decked in designer spectacles and a maroon sport coat, told The Ring. “Like I told you several times before, me getting back in the ring, bro, a lot of things would have to fall into place. It’s not like a (monetary) number or anything like that.
“It just has to be right. It has to be right. Meaning opportunity, the legacy piece of it. Talking to my family, friends about it. There’s a lot of boxes that gotta be checked, but I don’t even have to deal with that because I haven’t been made an offer yet.”
Ahh, there it is, Ward (32-0, 16 knockouts) leaving the door ever so slightly for someone to knock him off his feet with an offer that’s too good to be true. He’s still just 34, and when he was last in the ring, he cemented his status as The Ring’s top pound-for-pound fighter with a seventh-round stoppage of Sergey Kovalev in the rematch to retain his light heavyweight championship.
The days of him fighting at 175 pounds are over, though (“Light heavyweight, I’ve done that … I don’t even think I can make light heavyweight anymore.”) Ward now walks around at a fit 200 pounds, and if he were ever to lace up his gloves again, it would be at either cruiserweight or heavyweight, he acknowledged to The Ring. “(Light heavyweight) wouldn’t even be a conversation,” Ward said.
Aleksandr Usyk defends his Ring cruiserweight championship against Tony Bellew on Saturday, but Ward doesn’t seem too interested in fighting the winner. For one, Ward pointed out that Bellew has maintained he’s retiring afterward no matter the outcome. As for the current champ, Ward said “Usyk seems to be a good fighter, I haven’t seen a lot of him, but I’m not really tripping on a guy like that. I wish him nothing but the best.”
In other words: Usyk doesn’t possess the kind of name recognition that would entice Ward out of retirement. The man who does is heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.Ward has long dreamed of one day fighting for a heavyweight title, just like his idol Roy Jones Jr. During the news conference following his win over Kovalev, Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, broached the idea of a fight between his charge and Joshua.
“If I continued to fight, the roadmap was Bellew, and then a heavyweight push for a one-off. If I continued to fight, that’s what it was going to be,” Ward said in explaining his possible exit strategy from the sport. “Take a tune-up fight at whatever weight, a catchweight, then it was going to be Bellew, and then it was going to be heavyweight.”
If he’s going to end his retirement, Ward made it clear it must be a legacy-defining fight, and what better way to go out then with a challenge of Joshua, a man who stands 6-foot-6 and 240-plus pounds?
“When Virg brought that up post-Kovalev, that was serious,” Ward noted. “I know it seems crazy, it is a major risk but that’s what this thing is all about. Magnitude of the fight? That would be crazy because no one would think I would win, and all the critics and everybody who’s been waiting on me to lose, they for sure would have a front-row seat, they’re going to promote the fight.
“They’re going to write about it, they’re not going to stop writing about it because they want people to see that fight, because they’ll be like ‘that’s going to be the one where I’m going to get got.’ It would be huge. It would be huge.
“But again, man, I wish (Joshua) nothing but the best. He’s doing great things. It was possible, but I’m not active, I’m retired, so it’s not something I really think about.”
For someone not thinking at all about fighting, Ward seemed pretty excited at the mere thought of a mega fight with Joshua. For now, it’s purely fantasy, but it takes just one call from Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn to put the wheels in motion with an offer Ward can’t refuse.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger