The Greatest HBO Fighter of All-Time Round 1: Lederman Region

By Kieran Mulvaney

Inside HBO Boxing is crowning the greatest boxer ever to compete on the network, as determined by you, the fans. Among the countless icons and Hall of Famers who’ve battled on the HBO airwaves, we’ve selected an elite field of 32 fighters for entry in a bracket-style tournament. All matchups are previewed in depth on the HBO Boxing Podcast, and you can vote for the winners on Twitter (@HBOboxing). Who is truly the greatest? That’s for you to decide.

See the other regions: Lampley | Merchant | Kellerman

LEDERMAN REGION

Named after HBO Boxing’s long-standing, much-loved and award-winning “unofficial official” Harold Lederman, this region features a double dose of Sugars, three all-time-great middleweight champions and one of the best to reign one division higher, and two Latin legends whose ends came tragically soon. 

harold lederman region round 1

 

(1) Sugar Ray Leonard vs (8) Sugar Shane Mosley

Which sugar is the sweetest? The golden Olympian medalist, or his Golden State successor? Both these champions brought fast hands and fury as well as skill, so who has what it takes to move to the next round?

Sugar Ray Leonard
Welterweight/Junior Middleweight/Middleweight/Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion
36-3-1 (25 KOs)
Years Fought: 1977-1997

Best Wins:
TKO 8 Roberto Duran 11-25-1980
TKO 14 Thomas Hearns 9-16-1981
W 12 Marvin Hagler 4-6-1987
 

Sugar Shane Mosley
Lightweight/Welterweight/Junior Middleweight Champion
49-10-1 (41 KOs)
Years Fought: 1993-2016
 

Best Wins:
W 12 Phillip Holiday 8-2-1997
W 12 Oscar De La Hoya 6-17-2000
TKO  9 Antonio Margarito 1-24-2009


(4) Salvador Sanchez vs (5) Alexis Arguello

A meeting between these two phenomenal Latin fighters – one from Mexico, one from Nicaragua – was once briefly mooted, only to come to nothing. What a clash it might have been, and what a fantasy matchup it makes between two practitioners of power and skill.

Salvador Sanchez
Featherweight Champion
44-1-1 (32 KOs)
Years Fought: 1975-1982

Best Wins
TKO 13 Danny Lopez 2-2-1980
TKO 8 Wilfredo Gomez 8-21-1981
TKO 15 Azumah Nelson 7-21 1982

Alexis Arguello
Featherweight/SuperFeatherweight/Lightweight Champion
77-8 (62 KOs)
Years Fought: 1968-1995

Best Wins:
TKO 11 Rafael Limon 7-8-1979
W RTD 7 Bobby Chacon 11-16-1979
TKO 14 Ray Mancini 10-3-1981


(3) Bernard Hopkins vs (6) Andre Ward

Although these two men’s weights and careers overlapped, they never faced off in the real world. Who prevails in the fantasy world, as Philadelphia’s Hopkins comes up against Oakland’s Ward in a battle of cerebral, crafty champions?

Bernard Hopkins
Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion
55-8-2 (32 KOs)
Years Fought: 1988-2016

Best Wins:
TKO 12 Felix Trinidad 9-29-2001
W 12 Antonio Tarver 6-10-2006
W 12 Kelly Pavlik 10-18-2008

Andre Ward
Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion
32-0 (16 KOs)
Years Fought: 2004-2017

Best Wins:
W 12 Carl Froch 12-17-2011
TKO 10 Chad Dawson 9-8-2012
TKO 8 Sergey Kovalev 6-17-2017


(2) Marvin Hagler vs (7) Gennady Golovkin 

Two middleweight champions. Two lengthy and dominant reigns. Two men who eschew the glamor for hard-nosed, blue-collar (but blue riband) boxing at its best. Who moves on? The middleweight champion of the 1980s? Or the middleweight champion of the 2010s?

Marvin Hagler
Middleweight Champion
62-3-2 (52 KOs)
Years Fought: 1973-1987

Best Wins
TKO 3 Alan Minter 9-27-1980
KO 3 Thomas Hearns 4-15-1985
KO 11 John Mugabi 3-10-1986

Gennady Golovkin
Middleweight Champion
38-0-1 (34 KOs)
Years Fought: 2006-present

Best Wins
TKO 5 Grezgorz Proksa 9-1-2012
KO 3 Matthew Macklin 6-29-2013
TKO 3 Daniel Geale 7-26-2014

HBO Boxing Insiders' 2017 Year-End Picks: Best Blow

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2017. Here, they make their selections for "Best Blow" -- not necessarily a knockout, but the single punch that stuck out to them the most.

More: Fight of the Year | Fighter of the Year | Round of the Year | KO of the Year | Best Corner | Breakthrough Fighter | Favorite Moments

Nat Gottlieb: Sor Rungvisai’s right hook on Chocolatito

Call it boxing’s version of the shot heard around the world. For years Roman Gonzalez was considered the best in the game. But then last March, Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai won a tight majority decision over him. Six months later in the rematch, Sor Rungvisai stunned the boxing world in the 4th round by landing a monstrous right hook that dropped Gonzales. Somehow Gonzalez managed to get back up. Still wobbly, the Nicaraguan briefly tried to trade punches with the Thai until a right hook by Sor Rungvisai put him down for good. That first knockdown blow changed the landscape of boxing.

Springs Toledo: Joshua’s right uppercut on Klitschko in the 11th

The uppercut, when thrown with leverage and at the correct range, is a shocking punch that can sneak in and turn the tables. It's the punch that most makes boxing unfun; the spectacle of getting caught by something that comes up from the depths, that you can't see, that puts you on queer street and renders you either unconscious or helpless as the onslaught only heightens. It's the stuff of nightmares.

In the 11th round, Klitschko threw a right at Joshua's head and Joshua rolled around it and came up with a left hook that missed but also torqued a right uppercut that landed flush. Klischko's head flew back and for a second it looked like it flew off.  A photograph of the moment was making the rounds that had been photoshopped to look as if Klitschko's neck stretched like Mr. Fantastic. This writer was among those who had no idea it was photoshopped because the punch was that destructive. Klitschko stutter-stepped and then tried to play it off as if he was unhurt; Joshua swarmed him and he went down about seven seconds later. The fight was called off in the last minute of the round, but the uppercut was what made that conclusion a foregone one.

Hamilton Nolan: Ward’s low blow on Kovalev

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Andre Ward hitting Sergey Kovalev in the nuts. There is no doubt that Ward was outboxing Kovalev in their rematch. It is likely that Ward would have won if the fight had gone the distance, barring him getting caught with a Kovalev shot. But the reason that Ward was able to end the fight when he did was because he landed three, maybe four, good solid uppercuts to Kovalev's nuts, which absolutely drained him and opened him up for the head shot that was the beginning of the end. Well done, I guess.

Gordon Marino: Joshua’s uppercut against Klitschko

Frank Della Femina: Klitschko’s blow on Joshua in Round 6

The biggest blow of the year that sticks with me is the Round 6 bomb that Klitschko landed on Joshua during their heavyweight showdown at Wembley Stadium. At the time I remember thinking it may have been enough to turn things back in his favor, having just been knocked down himself in the previous round. But I also remember thinking Joshua showed the poise of a veteran in that moment to acknowledge he was banged up and allowed momentum to take him down for a breather. Had he not, Klitschko was fully prepared to follow up with something more, as evidenced by his charge through the falling Joshua, which could have truly altered the course of the fight.

Oliver Goldstein: Joshua’s right uppercut on Klitschko

Boxing rarely looks like the films, so it’s always quite something when the representation of it enters the real. This was in the eleventh round, when Joshua had just about taken over the fight after seeing out Klitschko’s mid-bout resurgence. Still, such was the overinvestment in the Brit made by Wembley Stadium’s collective consciousness that no one seemed willing to believe it. Then he landed a right uppercut so outrageously cartoonish that everyone saw the revelation. The fight ended a minute later.

Kieran Mulvaney: Joshua’s right uppercut on Klitschko

Wladimir Klitschko has long been dismissed for having an insufficiently sturdy chin, but that criticism has been overplayed. If you truly have a paper jaw, you don’t get dropped three times by Samuel Peter, get up each time, and go on to win. If your mandible is carved from glass, you don’t get up every time Anthony Joshua puts you down. And you certainly don’t survive the hellacious uppercut Joshua landed in round 11. That punch would have decapitated most mortals. But while Klitschko survived it, it was the beginning of the end: a beautifully delivered punch that snapped back the Ukrainian’s head and short-circuited his nervous system. He survived, but he never truly recovered; various other blows combined to drop him twice more and leave him being pummeled on the ropes. But it was the uppercut that set up the conclusion to one of the greatest nights in British boxing history.

Carlos Acevedo: Sor Rungvisai’s right hook on Chocolatito

sor rungvisai chocolatito 2.jpg

It was a hard end for super flyweight Roman Gonzalez, whose thrilling run as the biggest little man in boxing came to a halt on September 9 courtesy of a compact right hook that left him laid out on the canvas like a patient etherized on a table. In March, Sor Rungvisai won a grueling split decision over Gonzalez that most observers considered dubious at best. Sor Rungvisai was determined to prove his performance in the first fight—whether it was a win or a loss, it was still a rousing brawl—was no aberration. He dropped Gonzalez in the fourth round and when they again swapped blows furiously in center ring, he landed the shattering right hook. For a man who had, for sustenance, been forced to scavenge dross from his job as a trash collector, the definitive blow he landed against Gonzalez was more than just a sporting achievement, it was the myth of rags-to-riches made real.

Eric Raskin: Ward’s right to Kovalev’s jaw

Ward landed quite a few punches below the belt in his rematch with Kovalev, but it was one that landed about three feet above the belt that I’ll remember most. During the eighth round, with Kovalev showing signs of tiring but the fight still up in the air, Ward crashed home maybe the most perfect right hand of his entire career, connecting square on Kovalev’s jaw and causing his legs to do a dance. “Ward by knockout” was the most unlikely scenario before each of their fights because he was the smaller man moving up in weight and was never a heavy puncher. So when he visibly hurt Kovalev, it was a gasp-worthy moment — and the moment that decided the outcome, as Kovalev couldn’t recover and was stopped several follow-up salvos (made up of legal and illegal blows) later.

Diego Morilla: Joshua’s right uppercut on Klitschko

The heavyweight title fight at Wembley was full of historic moments and unforgettable images, but the one picture of Wladimir Klitschko’s neck being stretch upwards with its muscles struggling to hold his head over his shoulders after a brutal uppercut by Anthony Joshua turned out to be a perfect depiction of the defining moment of this magnificent heavyweight title bout. Up to then, Joshua’s resurgence after struggling in the middle rounds was still in progress, and he appeared exhausted as the second half of the bout began. But as Klitschko himself started to lose steam and the championship rounds were rang in, Joshua gained the poise and the control that he needed to finish the job – and that picture-perfect, sweat-spraying, panic-grin-inducing uppercut was the beginning of the end of an extraordinary fight.

Michael Gluckstadt: Joshua's uppercut on Klitschko

There's something especially dramatic about an uppercut that lands flush. The way the victim's head extends violently upwards like a defeated Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot. Gennady Golovkin landed an uppercut like that against David Lemieux, and I remember being shocked by the human neck's capacity for holding on to its head when faced with such force. Joshua's uppercut of Wladimir Klitschko was the heavyweight version of that punch. It's no wonder that Klitschko decided to make that round his final one in a boxing ring.

HBO Boxing Insiders' 2017 Year-End Picks: Fighter of the Year

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2017. Here, they make their selections for Fighter of the Year.

More: Fight of the Year | Best Round | KO of the Year | Best Blow | Best Corner | Breakthrough Fighter | Favorite Moments

Nat Gottlieb: Andre Ward

It’s hard to give a fighter the year’s best honor when he fought just once in 2017, but in this case Andre Ward is the exception to the rule. With his convincing and devastating dismantling of former champ Sergey Kovalev. Ward proved he should be sitting atop the light heavyweight division as well as the list of pound-for-pound fighters. After Ward defeated Kovalev in their first meeting in 2016 by a razor thin unanimous decision, many felt the Russian power puncher was robbed. In the rematch this June, Ward answered any questions lingering from their first fight with a systematic beatdown of Kovalev, stopping him in the eighth round.

Springs Toledo: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

Many outlets considered Roman Gonzalez the best P4P fighter in the world in March of this year. Then Srisaket Sor Rungvisai arrived for the first time on American shores with a smile on his face that hid his intention destroy an idol. Sor Rungvisai's record was nothing that would have alarmed Gonzalez. Since the previous June, he had fought three six-rounders and the fighters he defeated were making their professional debuts. Gonzalez had abdicated the flyweight throne in October 2016 and struggled in a win against Carlos Cuadras at junior bantamweight. Cuadras owns a technical win over the invader, but that was in 2014 and was more false assurance.

As it was, Sor Rungvisai -- physically strong, heavy handed, unorthodox, and relentless -- proved to be a technician's nightmare. Gonzalez could neither hurt nor control him and a series of unintentional headbutts were at once painful and disruptive. A banged-up Gonzalez lost a controversial majority decision.    

The rematch removed all doubt. Sor Rungvisai trained four months to make sure of it. He knocked Gonzalez down and then out with a right hand and proved himself Aaron Pryor to Gonzalez's Alexis Arguello. An underdog both times, Sor Rungvisai conquered the best P4P fighter in the world.

Hamilton Nolan: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Golovkin had a great year too. But Rungvisai single-handedly deposed the mini-Golovkin, Chocolatito, ushering in a new era atop the division and demonstrating that perhaps all the talk of Chocolatito as the "best pound for pound fighter" was a bit overblown.

Gordon Marino: Andre Ward

Frank Della Femina: Andre Ward

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Andre Ward may have fought only once this year, but it’s all he needed to get my pick for HBO Fighter of the Year. Here’s a guy who essentially took a year off at what was perceived to be the height of his career, came back into the mix with a few soft touches, and then took on the “Krusher” in their highly anticipated 2016 fight. Say what you will be about the first fight, but Ward came out on top in the eyes of the judges, and when it comes to earning the W those are the only eyes that matter. Ward could have bounced then, he could have called it a career and left everyone wondering what could have been if only he and Kovalev had faced each other once again. But he didn’t want to leave any doubt. He wanted to make a statement. So Ward took the rematch, won in convincing fashion, and showed boxing fans he had nothing more to prove. He slayed the biggest name in the division not once, but twice, and went out on top, on his terms.

Oliver Goldstein: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

There’s no fighter more deserving of this than Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Not especially heralded before his first fight with the brilliant Chocolatito Gonzalez, even if he had been tabbed by a few aficionados as worth a punt against the small, aging Chocolatito, the Thai super flyweight produced a stunning performance to upset the Nicaraguan in a marvelous bout this March in New York. Then, six months later, he returned to double the dose, this time stopping Chocolatito in four devastating rounds. Keeping up the schedule, Sor Rungvisai returns in February against the terrific Mexican, Juan Estrada. Before that, though, he can take great satisfaction from an extraordinary year.

Kieran Mulvaney: Andre Ward

This is a little hard, as nobody really separated himself from the pack. Had he faced Orlando Salido as scheduled and emerged victorious, the winner might have been Miguel Berchelt, who would have been the only boxer to go 3-0 on the network this year. Even at 2-0, you could easily pick him. There’s a strong case to be made for Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who scored a controversial points win and a devastating knockout over Chocolatito Gonzalez, who was widely regarded as the number one fighter in the world pound-for-pound when the year began; if I believed he actually did win that first fight, I’d surely pick him. Had Gennady Golovkin been given the decision many feel he merited against Canelo Alvarez, he might have gotten the nod; had Alvarez begun his storming late-rounds comeback a round or two earlier, he might have done. But I’m going with someone who only fought once this year and, it seems, will never fight again. He bullied the bully and crushed the Krusher; after again falling behind early against Sergey Kovalev, as he had done when they first met last November, he got into gear sooner and took over the contest more comprehensively, before removing any doubt with an eighth-round stoppage.

Carlos Acevedo: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

The draw between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin last September made this choice a difficult one. Had a winner emerged from that collision—officially, that is, since GGG seemed to edge out a decision—he would have easily been the Fighter of the Year. As it stands, however, neither Golovkin nor Alvarez notched clear-cut victories over elite competition in 2017. In a way, neither did Andre Ward, whose stoppage of Sergey Kovalev was marred by poor officiating. That leaves Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who followed up his debatable but arduous points win over Roman Gonzalez in March with a chilling KO that left no room for guesswork. He also took the guesswork out of this category.

Eric Raskin: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

If either of them had fought more than once on HBO this year, I probably would have given this honor to Anthony Joshua or Andre Ward. But they didn’t, so I’m not. I’m instead recognizing Rungvisai, who went from an unknown outside of Thailand entering the year to a man who twice defeated the fighter who entered 2017 as the pound-for-pound king. Sure, the first win over Chocolatito Gonzalez was a highly controversial (read: incorrect) decision. But Rungvisai had knocked Chocolatito down and pushed him harder than anyone else had in his pro career, so it was at least a moral victory. And it was followed by an emphatic victory: a fourth-round knockout in which the once-great Chocolatito was made to look like a tomato can. That was Rungvisai’s coming-out party, and it made his earlier upset win feel more legitimate in retrospect.

Matt Draper: Tie between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Daniel Jacobs

I’m nominating two guys: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Danny Jacobs. Sor Rungvisai was clinical in his March upset of former P4P king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, and in the September rematch produced a dominant, clear-cut victory that proved his ring skills beyond a doubt. The comparisons to Pacman are not crazy far-fetched and his February 2018 bout will be one to watch. In addition to Sor Rungvisai, Jacobs made a bold statement in 2017; aside from bouncing back from a GGG knockdown to give the Kazakh all he could handle for 12 tough rounds in a close loss, the “Miracle Man” made easy work of trash-talk extraordinaire Luis Arias in November and is firmly planted on the next-up middleweight tier after Canelo and Golovkin. Also, it’s pretty tough not to like the guy; Jacobs quickly became a fan favorite with his rise-from-the-ashes story and consistent class act. (Bonus points for the “fruity pebbles” line during the Arias presser.)

Diego Morilla: Canelo Alvarez

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The anti-Canelo crowd had two main arguments against the Freckled Boy Wonder’s claim to superiority: he would have to face, once and for all and with no excuses, what they perceived as his two biggest threats. In 2017, he did. What are the excuses now? Granted: in the first one, Julio Cesar Chavez simply didn’t come to fight. And in the second one, he focused more on making Gennady Golovkin miss than on making him pay for it. But even so, Canelo was only a few lucky twists and turns away from scoring two impressive signature wins in one year against his most dangerous foes available, and that has to mean something somewhere. In a world where fighters are rushed to the top of the pound-for-pound rankings after Globetrotting the Washington Generals du jour based on how good they look in the ring, someone did the hard work of facing the best out there, and has not yet been rewarded for it. This modest paragraph intends to serve, as best it can, that modest purpose.  

Michael Gluckstadt: Anthony Joshua

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai made himself a compelling case, but ultimately it's too difficult to disentwine his emergence from Chocolatito's downfall. Is the Thai fighter truly the best in the division? Or did the former pound-for-pounder from Nicaragua simply reach his expiration date? Andre Ward's lone opponent in 2017 -- a Sergey Kovalev who is very much still Krushing -- showed no doubt that the "Son of God" is still capable of beating the best, but I'd rather focus on the future than the past, and no one cemented their star status this year like Anthony Joshua, who did so on the biggest possible stage in the best fight of the year.

PODCAST: Ep 214: Ward and Mosley Retirements

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney reflect on the careers of 2017 retirees Sugar Shane Mosley and Andre Ward, selecting their most memorable fights and greatest performances and discussing whether both are first-ballot Hall of Famers.

PODCAST: Ep 213 Linares-Campbell Postfight

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney share their thoughts on Jorge Linares' split decision win over Luke Campbell, plus they discuss the Canelo-GGG scoring (again), Daniel Jacobs' big career move, the deaths of Jake La Motta and Joe Carnicelli, and the sudden retirement of Andre Ward.

On His Terms: The Career and Retirement of Andre Ward

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By Eric Raskin

Here’s a handy name to keep in your back pocket for your next boxing trivia night: John Revish.

The associated question is, “Who’s the last boxer to defeat Andre Ward?” For 20 years now, Revish, who beat a 13-year-old Ward in the amateurs, has held that distinction, with “last” taken to mean “most recent.” Now “last” means “final.” Ward, who didn’t lose for the next seven years as an amateur or the subsequent 13 as a pro, will never lose in the ring again, period, if he holds to the retirement he announced suddenly on Thursday.

“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 said in a statement, headlined “Mission Accomplished,” that he posted on his website. “If I cannot give my family, my team, and the fans everything that I have, then I should no longer be fighting.”

In the midst of a boxing year overflowing with high-profile retirements, Andre “S.O.G.” Ward becomes the second former U.S. Olympian in four weeks to walk away with an undefeated record and a claim to the pound-for-pound throne. The big difference between Ward and Floyd Mayweather — who really retired two years earlier and was lured back for one last too-easy-to-pass-up cash grab — is that Ward is just 33 years old, still arguably in his prime.

For countless fighters in past eras, 33 translated to over the hill, but in this age of improved medical science and lighter schedules and Mayweather fighting at 40 and Bernard Hopkins fighting past 50, 33 is young. Even Joe Calzaghe, who, like Ward, walked away undefeated after conquering the super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions while seemingly having something left in the tank and plenty of money left to earn, was 36. To go out this on top and this close to his physical peak is just about unprecedented in boxing. The pound-for-pound title in 2017 might not be the equivalent of the undisputed heavyweight title in 1955, but Ward’s retirement timing is legitimately Marciano-esque.

So how will Ward be remembered? Firstly, as a great boxer, one of the finest of his era, with the highest ring IQ of his generation. He won Olympic gold in 2004 (still the only American male boxer since 1996 to do so), turned pro on HBO, and shot to the top when he dominated the “Super Six” tournament from 2009-2011, effectively cleaning out the 168-pound division along the way. The favorites coming into that tournament were Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, and Carl Froch; Ward was unproven and something of an afterthought. He beat Kessler, Abraham, and Froch, as well as Allan Green and Sakio Bika, before the Super Six was through.

Then he came back to HBO and stopped light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson in a masterful performance (though Dawson appeared badly drained from getting down to 168 pounds) and won a pair of controversial fights over his most dangerous possible opponent, Sergey Kovalev. The first bout saw Ward get off the deck early to win an unpopular one-point decision. In the rematch, S.O.G. again started slow before pulling off an eighth-round TKO win that was both stunningly impressive and undoubtedly aided by low blows. By the time that was over, the master technician from Oakland with a record of 32-0, 16 KOs, found himself atop most pound-for-pound lists — at long last, five years after a case for ranking him there first emerged.

That long delay in Ward’s ascension is also a major part of his legacy. Between Dawson and Kovalev, Ward largely wasted four years. There was a 14-month inactivity followed by a 19-month hiatus, due to some combination of promotional and legal battles and quite possibly a flickering flame of passion for the sport. When he did fight, some of the bouts were utter wastes of his time and talent, specifically those against Paul Smith and Alexander Brand. Ward will be remembered, secondarily, as a boxer who could have done more. It’s not fair to call him an underachiever, but it is fair to say he didn’t fully maximize his potential.

Ward will be remembered as polarizing, both as an entertainer and as a personality. There are those who enjoyed his cerebral, neutralizing style and those who couldn’t stand it. There are those who admire him for being an articulate speaker and a class act and those who find him to be detached and pretentious. There are many who have hated him from the moment he dubbed himself “S.O.G,” or “Son of God.”

Andre Ward was, perhaps, too contemplative a person for the fight game. He was reportedly close to a new four-fight deal with HBO over the last couple of weeks, and a more impulsive man would scarcely pause to consider walking away with those millions of dollars dangling. But Ward thought things through. Maybe he thought a little too long sometimes. In this case, his thinking led him to consider how much more his body could give, how much risk he was taking every time he stepped between the ropes, how much desire he had deep down to keep doing this brutal, violent, exhausting thing that he’s been doing almost his whole life, and whether he really needed any more money to be comfortable. The conclusions he reached exemplify the Andre Ward we’ve come to know.

“Andre Ward ends his boxing career as he only knew how to live it — as a champion at the top,” HBO Sports Executive Vice President Peter Nelson reflected. “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.”

If you move the space in Ward’s name two characters to the left, you are left with the words “and reward.” Induction in the International Boxing Hall of Fame is a small part of what’s coming Ward’s way and what he has earned. Whether you rooted for him or not, you had to respect him. And if indeed he doesn’t fight again, perhaps the most enduring part of his legacy, the thing that no matter your opinion of Ward demands your respect, will be the when and the why of the way he ended his career.

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HBO

HBO Statement on Andre Ward's Retirement

Photo: Will Hart

"Andre Ward ends his boxing career as he only knew how to live it -- as a champion at the top," says Peter Nelson, Executive Vice President, HBO Sports. "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.

"We wish Andre and his family much success and happiness as he explores new opportunities, including with our own HBO family as one of the expert analysts on our broadcast team.

"It was a privilege for HBO to serve as the television platform for many of his landmark achievements in the sport he loves."

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HBO

Podcast: Mid-Year Awards

At the mid-point of 2017, HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney reveal their picks for the HBO Mid-Year Awards, covering everything from Fight and Fighter of the Half-Year to Gutsiest and Least Gutsy Losing Efforts of the Half-Year.