Andre Ward retires, saying 'body can no longer put up with the rigours of boxing'
Andre Ward, widely regarded as one of the finest pound-for-pound fighters in the world, has announced his immediate retirement from boxing due to a lack of desire caused by an ailing body.
Ward was the last American man to win an Olympic gold medal when he topped the podium at Athens 2004 and he went on to capture world titles at super-middleweight and light-heavyweight.
He had been rumoured to be contemplating a move to heavyweight but instead stunned the boxing world by ending a glittering professional career unbeaten with 32 wins in as many contests, 16 inside the distance.
In a statement on his official website, the 33-year-old said: "I want to be clear - I am leaving because my body can no longer put up with the rigours 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 capped a sterling amateur record of 115 victories and five defeats by winning gold in the light-heavyweight category at the Olympics 13 years ago.
He rose to prominence in the paid ranks in the Super Six World Boxing Classic by upsetting Mikkel Kessler in 2009 to capture the WBA super-middleweight crown and defeated Britain's Carl Froch in the tournament final two years later to add the WBC title to his collection.
Ward, an extremely skilled fighter who nevertheless struggled to go on to super stardom, enhanced his reputation with a 10th round stoppage of then world light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson.
Promotional issues led to him fighting just once in nearly three years - a sparkling points victory over Edwin Rodriguez - and he stepped up to light-heavyweight on his return, easily defeating Paul Smith, Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand.
A highly-anticipated clash with fellow undefeated fighter Sergey Kovalev followed in November last year and Ward survived a second-round knockdown to wrench the IBF, WBA and WBO light-heavyweight belts from the much-feared Russian with a points decision - 114-113 on all three scorecards.
The contentious result led to a rematch in June and Ward this time settled the matter with an eighth-round stoppage to remain unified champion at 175lbs - despite Kovalev's claims that his foe had landed several low blows.
A fight with IBF and WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua was mooted by Ward in the wake of his defeat of Kovalev, while Tony Bellew admitted he would relish stepping in to face the Californian.
Instead, Ward has chosen to bow out at the top.
Under the heading 'Mission Accomplished' he added in his statement: "To the sport of boxing - I love you. You've been by my side since I was 10 years old. You've taught me so much. You've humbled me. You've promoted me. I've sacrificed a lot for you, but you've given me more than I ever thought possible.
"You gave me a platform, made me a champion and helped me provide for my family. I am forever grateful to you. You and I will always be synonymous, connected at the hip.
"Thank you for all the wonderful people I've come in contact with because of you. I've made friends for life. 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."