Boxing champ Andre Ward retires undefeated

Two-division world champion and consensus pound-for-pound king Andre Ward has officially retired from the fight game.

Ward – Oakland’s proud native son and reigning light heavyweight champion – issued a statement on his official website Thursday morning, thanking the sport for providing him a platform to establish himself as a world champion and one of the best of his generation:

“As I walk away from the sport of boxing today, I leave at the top of your glorious mountain, which was always my vision and my dream. I did it. We did it.”

Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) also thanked everyone who joined him throughout his pugilistic journey and further elaborated on why he decided to leave the sport:

“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. If I cannot give my family, my team, and the fans everything that I have, then I should no longer be fighting.”

Ward’s announcement came as a surprise to some, but as he said when he called into ESPN’s First Take Thursday:

“People see what I do fight night, they see under the lights. But they don’t see the toil, they don’t see the grind. They don’t see the physical pain that you go through, not just in the fights but to prepare and get ready for those battles. I’m the type of fighter where everything has to be clicking, everything has to be on point. I’ve felt the physicality of the sport … and I bit down and continued to push through and at this point, it’s time and I know it’s time.”

Some of Ward’s boxing brethren like “Showtime” Shawn Porter and Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi took to Twitter to congratulate the five-time world champion and 2004 Olympic gold medalist on a stellar career.

Porter posted a video of him and Ward settling a push-up bet in honor of Throwback Thursday while Malignaggi said it was an honor to sit ringside for Ward’s fights:

Ward – the last American man to win Olympic gold in boxing at the 2004 Olympic Games – turned pro that December, but ultimately rose to prominence following his conquest of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic from November 2009 to December 2011.

Throughout the tournament, Ward bested the likes of Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch to not only win the WBA and WBC super middleweight championships, but also establish himself as the best super middleweight in the world.

Ward followed that up with dominant performances against Chad Dawson (who he stopped via 10th-round technical knockout in September 2012) and Edwin Rodriguez before enduring a near two-year layoff because of nagging injuries and promotional and contractual disputes with his late promoter Dan Goossen.

Ward rebounded by signing with Roc Nation Sports in 2015 and won all five fights under their belt, including his two light heavyweight title fights with Russian knockout artist Sergey Kovalev.

Ward annexed Kovalev of his IBF, WBA and WBO world titles via close, but controversial unanimous decision in November then successfully retained them via eighth-round TKO courtesy of a body shot barrage in their June 17 rematch.

Ward also had success outside the boxing ring as a boxing analyst for HBO and even transitioned into acting by playing boxer Danny “Stuntman” Wheeler in Bay Area director Ryan Coogler’s 2015 knockout boxing drama Creed.

Ward fought all but one of his last seven fights – including both Pay Per View showdowns with Kovalev – on HBO and told ringside media last month that his HBO contract expired.

Peter Nelson, executive vice president of HBO Sports, said in a statement that he and the network wishes Ward and his family much success and happiness as he explores new opportunities.

He also said it was a privilege for the network to televise many of Ward’s achievements:

“To watch Ward was to marvel at constant mastery of craft in the ring, to say nothing of his being the consummate role model outside it. The Hall of Fame will be lucky to have him.”