LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 17: Andre Ward (L) hits Sergey Kovalev with a left in the eighth round of their light heavyweight championship bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 17, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ward retained his WBA/IBF/WBO titles with a TKO in the eighth round.
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Three years ago this week, Andre Ward closed out his Hall of Fame career with an eighth-round TKO win over former champion Sergey Kovalev.

Jason Leach

Andre Ward is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters the sport of boxing has ever seen. After winning the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics in the light heavyweight division, he would fight professionally for the next 13 years, compiling a professional record of 32-0 with 16 knockouts.

His accurate and precise punching, boxing IQ, along with his defensive wizardry made him the second greatest fighter of this era, behind Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Ward spent the bulk of his career at super middleweight where he is either considered the best or one of the best super middleweights of all-time.

His notoriety grew tremendously when he won the Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament, where he defeated Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green, Arthur Abraham, and Carl Froch.

But the fight that may define his fight the most is the final fight of his career when he defeated former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev in their rematch on June 17, 2017, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas Nevada.

After battling various injuries and dealing with promotional issues, Ward moved up to light heavyweight in 2016 and defeated Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand via unanimous decision.

Then he challenged the hard-hitting undefeated and WBA, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev on November 19, 2016, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Kovalev was perhaps the most dominant champion at that time, holding impressive victories over Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal.

It was a highly competitive fight that saw Kovalev knock down Ward in the second round, but Ward would walk away with a narrow unanimous decision victory where all three judges scored the fight 114-113 in his favor.

Kovalev and his team dispute the decision which would lead to bad blood between him and Ward’s camp and lead to their immediate rematch seven months later.

Just as the case was in the first fight, Kovalev got off to a fast start being the aggressor, and winning the first three rounds on one judge scorecard, and winning two of the three rounds on the other two judges scorecards.

But start in round four, Ward began to turn the tide of the fight. He began to counter Kovalev’s attack, and land clean hard blows to the head and body of Kovalev. His effective body shots wore down Kovalev, as he started breathing heavily through his mouth.

Then with 1:19 remaining in the eighth round, Ward landed a hard straight right to Kovalev’s head that wobbled him badly. Ward would then unleash a vicious assault on Kovalev’s body that had him hunched over and forced referee Tony Weeks to stop the fight with 37 seconds remaining in the round.

Kovalev and his promoter Kathy Duva said Ward’s body shots were actually low blows. But replays show that Ward’s shots landed on Kovalev’s beltline making them legal blows.

At the time of the stoppage, judges Dave Moretti and Glenn Feldman had Ward winning 67-66. Judge Steve Weisfeld had Kovalev ahead 68-65.

Ward landed 80 out of 238 punches (34%) compared to Kovalev who landed 95 out of 407 of his punches (23%).

Based on the opponent and how he was able to stop a fighter that some perceived as invincible, this was the most impressive win of Ward’s career.

Ward as on top of the boxing world as the pound-for-pound king and had unlimited options in front of him. But he would shock the boxing world in September by retiring at the age of 33, stating that his body could no longer take the rigors of the sport.

In boxing, it’s rare that fighters leave on top of the sport when they’re still in their prime. We’ve seen far too often fighters stay around too long and take unnecessary punishment. But Ward would be the exception to this, making his retirement just as perfect as his boxing record.

He wasn’t as popular as worldwide as Mayweather or Miguel Cotto, but he exemplified what a fighter should be in and out of the ring, in showing class, dignity, and faith.

Andre Ward was truly a one of a kind fighter.

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