Fighters of the decade: Andre Ward

James Oddy
26/01/2020 8:10pm

Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images

In the third of a new series discussing who was the greatest boxer of the last decade, James Oddy makes the case for Andre Ward...

When our esteemed online editor, Luke G. Williams, suggested a list of fighters of the decade, I had to have a long think about who I would advocate for. This is a serious business, after all.

My ultimate pick must be for the Californian ex-super middleweight and light heavyweight champion, Andre Ward.

Serious is probably the appropriate word to describe the self-monikered ‘Son of God’.

A controversial choice as well, perhaps. The decorated amateur had a frustrating yet perfect decade once the blinkers are removed.

After announcing himself as a major player just prior to the start of the decade against Mikkel Kessler, he cruised to victory in the fascinating if flawed ‘Super Six’ series. His impeccable performance against Carl Froch in the final heralded him at once as a standout talent of his generation.

As technically flawed as Froch was at times, he was always dangerous and always pushed his opponent hard. Not so against Ward, who unleashed his pragmatic blend of the dark arts and sweet science to secure a near shutout victory.

There were only seven more fights over the next nine years. Ward, smart in the ring, was equally so out of it, unwilling to compromise beyond a certain point. It robbed us of more performances, yet he left us with two final demonstrations of his ring craft against Sergey Kovalev, the feared light heavy boxer puncher.

The contentious first win for Ward showed his resilience, as he recovered from an early knockdown to secure a narrow but unanimous points victory. To my mind, that result was completely correct. Go back and watch it. Although Ward started badly, he took over the second half of the fight, and was in cruise control as the rounds wound down.

Ward even is boxing with a smile on his face in those last two rounds - some performance against a brutal, aggressive pound-for-pound contender in Kovalev.

Their rematch put a final exclamation mark on Ward’s career, as he picked up where he left off in the first fight, this time breaking down and stopping the Russian.

Then, he hung up the gloves, becoming an articulate and intelligent broadcaster.

Could he have done more? Perhaps. But he did enough.

And in a sport which can take so much from its fighters, physically and emotionally, Ward’s smarts are to be applauded.