TMZ Sports ran into the undefeated boxer in L.A. Thursday night ... and asked about reports that Ward was considering hangin' up the gloves ... before the highly anticipated rematch.
FYI -- Ward defeated Kovalev on November 19th in Vegas.
Ward says he's the champ ... and needs to be paid like it ... or the fight everyone wants to see ain't happening.
But what if he doesn't get the figure he's looking for?
Check out the clip.