Andre Ward retired from boxing in 2017, and was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame this past December, part of the 2021 class.
But Ward also will only turn 37 in just over a week. He’s not that old. And he’s still fielding questions about if he might come back to the ring.
One of the main topics of that discussion over the past couple of years especially has been Canelo Alvarez. Canelo (54-1-2, 36 KO) now competes in the 168-pound division, where Ward made his name and became arguably the best super middleweight ever. And Alvarez has also competed at 175, where Ward finished up his career with a pair of controversial wins over Sergey Kovalev.
Ward, who retired with a record of 32-0 (16 KO), took a question about Canelo again from Max Kellerman on a recent edition of ESPN’s “Max on Boxing,” and his answer was simple and clear, but will still raise some eyebrows and pique some interest.
“I’m retired, so I can’t really talk my talk and have the bass in my voice like I used to when I was active,” Ward said. “Because you know what people are gonna say. ‘Aw, you’re retired, why are you talking like that about Canelo?’
“But I’m a first ballot Hall of Famer. I didn’t get to the Hall of Fame believing that any fighter can beat me. I go into a fight with respect, ‘OK, this fighter has punching power, this fighter’s a good boxer,’ you know, you go in there with a healthy respect.
“But retired or not, I don’t believe any fighter can beat me, and I’m just gonna leave it there.”
Ward, who now works at ESPN as an analyst after doing the same job in the waning days of HBO’s boxing broadcasts, leaves it just open enough — just barely open enough — that it’s going to get people talking. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart guy. Whether it’s just to play around a bit is the other question, and until he indicates something, you have to think he’s just stoking the fires a bit for the fun of it.
That’s not to say he isn’t serious. His answer comes from a very real place, I think that’s obvious.
And it has to be said, yes, there would be significant money in a fight between Canelo and Ward if Canelo keeps winning. Right now, Alvarez is set to defend the WBC and WBA super middleweight titles against Avni Yildirim on Feb. 27 on DAZN, and is expected to follow that up with a May 8 unification bout against WBO titleholder Billy Joe Saunders.
If he wins both of those fights, Canelo wants to fight the IBF titleholder — currently Caleb Plant — in a possible full unification, and he’s said he wants to fight four times total this year.
For what it’s worth — and keep in mind this is boxing, where minds change a lot and many have come out of retirement at least once — Ward did say in late 2019 he wouldn’t come back for Canelo, and recently said if he did come back, he’d rather go “all or nothing” against Anthony Joshua at heavyweight.
Let’s say it came together for late this year or early 2022. Do you think Ward would be able to come out of retirement and beat Canelo, or would he be giving up his undefeated record to the younger Mexican superstar?