Aftermath: Debating Andre Ward's legacy
In the aftermath of Andre Ward announcing his retirement from boxing, Callum Rudge, James Oddy, Colin Harris, Andrew Harrison and Luke G. Williams debate his legacy and accomplishments...
BM: Where will Ward rank in the 'all-time greats' discussion?
CR: Sadly he’s not really in the discussion. His years of inactivity and short spell at light heavyweight are against him. I would put him in the conversation concerning the best super middleweight of all time, it’s between him and Joe Calzaghe by a stretch. Ward certainly has a stronger record than the Welshman, if not the longevity.
JO: I wouldn't consider him an all-time great, but I'd consider him a great of his era. Like Callum said, he's an all-time great of his main weight class as well. Had he put together a longer run at light heavy then maybe, but his CV and longevity just aren't strong enough.
CH: He won't. He is not an all-time great, but there's nothing wrong at all with being 'one of the greatest super middleweights ever'. I wouldn't rate him best ever at the weight though because (a) for overall longevity and achievements Calzaghe is stronger and (b) as a fighter, Roy Jones Jr would have dealt with him.
AH: As everyone else has already established, Ward isn't an all-time great fighter. He's one of the best-ever super middleweights, although that accolade flatters to deceive when you factor in how long that division has been in existence (compared to middleweight or light heavy). I'm with Colin: Roy Jones was the best fighter to have campaigned there (Sugar Ray and Tommy Hearns were faded by the time they reconvened at 168lbs) and Calzaghe's record is as good as Ward's (he beat a better version of Kessler and had superior longevity).
LW: It all depends on what you mean by 'all-time great'. Top 20 of all time? No. Top 50 or 75 of all time? Perhaps. Future hall of famer? Absolutely. Best of his era? Not quite - Pacquiao (definitely) and Mayweather (probably) are ahead of him. I'd position Ward as the second greatest super middle of all time behind Roy Jones and well ahead of Calzaghe, whose resume is far more padded. Although he only fought 32 times, Ward's general level of opposition once he ascended to world class was impressive - he defeated peak or near peak versions of Kessler, Abraham, Froch, Dawson and Kovalev (twice) and also won Olympic gold. You can always add asterisks to victories, but the fact is Ward beat them all. In and around his weight class the only major names it would have been good to see him add to his ledger were perhaps Lucian Bute and Adonis Stevenson. Ward's victory against Sullivan Barrera also looks better and better as time goes on. In my book, retiring while on top should also enhance a fighter's legacy, even if it often seems to damage their public popularity (see Gene Tunney).
BM: What was Ward's finest hour / performance?
CR: His performance when winning the Super Six was exceptional. Considering what Froch had achieved already and what he would achieve afterwards that is Ward's standout win. Especially considering how easy he made it look.
JO: I've always maintained Ward won the first Kovalev fight. To see him rally after such a poor start, and actually have a wide smile on his face as the feared 'Krusher' toiled in the latter stages really highlighted the American's special mixture of grit and skill.
CH: Beating Froch. The Cobra is held in such high regard and Ward was the only man to ever decisively beat him - and the only man not to get a thumping in return. This victory also served as Ward winning the Super Six, a tournament he waltzed through while picking up two world titles. The first Kovalev victory was also impressive, but the Froch fight shades it.
AH: Froch was probably his best win on paper. The majority of press/media had Kovalev a clear winner in their first fight (I thought the Russian won by four rounds) and the second was marred by the unsatisfying ending, which was reminiscent of Duran vs Buchanan. Ward's best performance was against Chad Dawson – yet even that has to be tempered by the fact Dawson came in so drained (after inexplicably offering to fight at 168lbs).
LW: Gradually unravelling Kovalev's mind, spirit and body over the space of 18 rounds after being floored in the second stanza of the first contest.
BM: Will he stay retired for keeps?
CR: I think he will. He’s been talking retirement since the first Kovalev fight and while he’s mentioned going up to heavyweight I think he realises that the modern heavies are just too big for him. He was paid extremely well for both Kovalev fights and doesn’t live a flashy lifestyle like other fighters. Saying that, this is boxing and we can’t rule out anything!
JO: I think so. He's a very cerebral fighter and I believe that if he thinks it's time, then it's time. I don't really see a viable money fight left for him, either. I'd love to see him fight Adonis Stevenson, but would it ever realistically happen?
CH: I think he does. As much as we'd all like to see Ward vs Stevenson it has just never seemed to be a realistic option, and I think the talk about moving to cruiser or heavyweight was simply talk. Ward was almost retired before the little run at light heavyweight anyway: so I think it's a case of a sensible, rich, young family man retiring due to the very good reason of his body not being willing any more.
AH: I think so – he's a man of his word and is so calculating, he has probably weighed up the number of successful boxing comebacks in the past against the (vast majority) of failed attempts.
LW: Yes. He'll join the likes of Tunney, Lewis and Calzaghe in retiring on top and staying retired.
BM: Who replaces him at the top of the P4P list? Or is the number one slot vacant?
CR: This is extremely tough. The retirement of Ward and decline of Chocolatito means a vacuum has been created at the top of the P4P list with Canelo, Golovkin and Crawford the main contenders. Canelo has the strongest record of the three and this past weekend's draw with GGG means I would probably have him at number one but I would not argue too strongly against the other two either. The hope is that the next 12 months produces a new undisputed number one.
JO: It's tough. Since the P4P is a mixture of fantasy and opinion, I'll go for Lomachenko. He's only had ten fights, but he's handily dealt with some quality fighters. And, as far as the eye test goes, he's insanely gifted. Crawford is in the conversation as well.
CH: I'm afraid I never thought Ward was number one anyway (top five, of course, but not top spot). I do think we've now lost three long-term mainstays from the P4P lists recently: Mayweather, Ward and Roman Gonzalez. I think top spot now probably goes to one of the new top five, who in my view are in the order of: Lomachenko, Crawford, Garcia, Rigondeaux and GGG.
AH: There's no clear 'best fighter in boxing' at present. And with Anthony Joshua arriving at heavyweight, do we still need a 'pound for pound king'? Manny Pacquiao is the most accomplished fighter still boxing while the most complete fighter around is probably Terence Crawford (with Gennady Golovkin a close second) and the most talented Vasyl Lomachenko.
LW: For me it's simple - Terence Crawford. Lomachenko and Golovkin are just behind him. If longtime top ten member Rigondeaux was to beat Lomachenko I'd probably put him number one, but I don't see it happening.