Andre Ward shocked the boxing world yesterday with his surprise announcement that he is retiring from the sport. Ward, who sat on top of most Pound For Pound lists, seemingly had many years left to add to the millions of dollars he had already made in the ring.
“I want to be clear — 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 his statement. “If I cannot give my family, my team, and the fans everything that I have, then I should no longer be fighting.”
I spoke with Jordan Shimmell, the West Michigan Cruiserweight who’s been absent from the sport for over a year, about Ward’s decision, and his own.
Shimmell, a monster in the amateurs (7 Michigan Golden Gloves Championships), signed with Al Haymon shortly after his pro career took off. He started his pro career 19-0 with 16 KO’s before running into the awkward (and also undefeated) Isiah Thomas in a nationally televised fight in 2015. He lost that decision with some help from questionable judging, but quickly rebounded in his next fight with an impressive win.
That win set up the 27-year-old Shimmell for the biggest fight of his young career, a World Title eliminator against Russian Murat Gassiev (now the IBF World Champ) last spring. Shimmell looked great in that fight, until a Gassiev hook he never saw coming caught him and he went down for the first time in his career. As it turns out, it was also the last time in his career.
Shimmell, who had yet to enter his boxing “prime”, decided to walk away from the sport.
“There is just so much wear and tear on your body,” Shimmell told me. “Most times I felt so much older than I am.” Shimmell is still only 28 years old.
“Most people don’t understand that even though you only fight 2 or 3 times a year, you never stop training and sparring,” Shimmell continued. “It’s literally every day in the gym preparing for the fights that tears your body apart just as bad, if not worse, than the fights.”
After the Gassiev fight, Shimmell decided to give himself a couple weeks off from training to relax and ponder his future.
“Those couple weeks off felt pretty good,” confessed Shimmell. “The longer I waited to go back to the gym the easier it was to not go back.”
“I loved the competition. I loved the excitement. I even loved the small amount of fame that comes with being a successful pro,” recalled Shimmell, who said all the good things that went through his mind about the sport just couldn’t compete with the reasons to retire.
“It became a job, and it was a job that would beat you down physically and mentally every day. It was completely different than fighting as an amateur,” said Shimmell. “The desire slowly fades and it’s harder and harder to put your body through what it takes to be successful at that level. The drive to fight just started to leave me and I knew it was time to move on.”
With his boxing career in the rear-view mirror, I asked Shimmell about being a fan of the sport going forward.
“The thing I get asked about from fans more than anything else is about the horrible judging, and it’s something I just don’t have an answer for,” Shimmell explained. “I get confused too as to how judges can see things so differently from the way I see them. I can honestly say if the sport doesn’t get it fixed, then boxing will lose fans. Nobody seems to understand how these judges are scoring fights, and when people don’t understand something, they will stop watching it.”