Oakland’s Andre Ward completed his mission, evidently. The light-heavyweight champion, citing the physical demands of boxing, stunningly announced his retirement Thursday at age 33.
“I want to be clear — I am leaving because my body can no longer put up with the rigors of the sport and therefore my desire to fight is no longer there,” Ward wrote. “If I cannot give my family, my team, and the fans everything that I have, then I should no longer be fighting.”
Regarded as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter, Ward is retiring undefeated — 32-0 with 16 knockouts — and last fought in June when he beat Sergey Kovalev in Las Vegas with an eight-round technical knockout to defend his WBA, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight titles.
Afterward, Ward spoke of possibly moving up divisions, even suggesting fighting as a heavyweight because it had “always been a dream of mine,” citing his stamina and success against bigger fighters.
Instead, he’s retiring at the top of his game.
Ward was an Olympic champion in 2004 and rose to prominence several years later. He won the WBA super-middleweight title in 2009 and unified that title in 2011 in the Super Six World Boxing Classic, becoming the world’s top middleweight fighter.
A shoulder injury shelved Ward in late 2012, and he was out 19 months because of a legal dispute with his former promoter, Goossen Promotions, leaving him with one fight in 2½ years.
He returned in June 2015 and won all three belts in November 2016 by beating Kovalev in a disputed, unanimous decision. June’s rematch was more decisive.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who often attended Ward’s fights in Oakland — even leading the boxer’s entourage and carrying Ward’s belt to the ring before a 2015 fight — tweeted his appreciation.
On his site, Ward thanked those who helped him in his career: “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has played a part in my journey. You know who you are. I could not have done this without you.”
The last line of his statement: “Above all, I give God the Glory, for allowing me to do what I’ve done, for as long as I have.” He signed it Andre “S.O.G” Ward. As in, Son of God.
In a May 2014 interview with The Chronicle, Ward was asked about his faith.
“I don’t come from a position that I am better than everybody; I come from a position that I had a tough upbringing,” he said. “And I don’t always highlight it, because I just never wanted to be that person with another rags-to-riches story. My mom had struggles. My dad had struggles. He raised me as a single parent. I rebelled and almost quit amateur boxing, but my faith in God had a lot to do with me slowly getting my life together.
“I have to give God glory for that. And he’s sustaining me. My faith is not a crutch; it’s part of my life. If guys can get on television and talk about the women they slept with and the parties and they can influence kids that way, why can’t I talk about my faith? And I try not to be obnoxious about it.”
“Mission Accomplished,” was the title above a two-paragraph statement on his website.