Andre Ward wouldn’t come back for one more fight no matter how much money he was offered.
There were times during a retirement that is into its sixth year when Ward wondered whether he walked away from the ring too soon. That thought never enters Ward’s head these days as the father of five dotes on his children and enjoys his job as an analyst for ESPN’s boxing broadcasts.
Ward is satisfied to have retired at 33, when he just as easily could’ve fought for seven-figure purses versus various opponents. The 39-year-old Ward exuded contentment in retirement during “S.O.G.: THE BOOK OF WARD,” a one-hour and 43-minute documentary about Ward’s life before, during and after boxing.
The documentary – which was produced by the athlete empowerment brand UNINTERRUPTED, founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter – will premiere Friday night on Showtime (8 p.m. EDT/PDT).
“People will say, ‘Well, you coulda did this. You shoulda been bigger,’ ” Ward stated during the documentary. “Nah, I got what I was supposed to have. Like, how can you want something for me that I don’t want for myself? … It sounds crazy to some people, but it’s not all about the money.”
Ward, who retired undefeated (32-0, 16 KOs), discussed during the documentary that he used and sold drugs in his hometown of Oakland before he refocused on boxing and won a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The former unified super middleweight and light heavyweight champion called himself “a straight hypocrite” for dealing drugs to someone’s mom while simultaneously hoping that his own mother, Madeline, could overcome her crack addiction.
That was a tremendously turbulent time in Ward’s life, when it seemed as though he might not reach the potential he had exhibited as one of the best amateur boxers in the country.
“Andre was lost,” said Tiffiney Ward, Andre’s wife, who was his girlfriend at that time. “I mean, he was really lost.”
The typically private Ward detailed the pain caused by the death of his father, Frank Ward, a recovering heroin addict who died of a heart attack at the age of 46.
Ward credited his faith in God and longtime manager James Prince for helping him turn his life around.
“It was getting bad,” said Ward, who mentioned that he was arrested. “I’m in the streets and I’m moving recklessly. Didn’t care about boxing. But I wasn’t fully out of the sport. I was one foot in, one foot out. And that’s when James Prince met me.”
Ward flew directly from Athens to Houston to meet with Prince after he won the last gold medal captured by an American male boxer in the Olympics nearly 19 years ago. Tiffiney told Ward not to sign a contract with Prince until they had an opportunity to speak about the deal presented, but Ward put pen to paper before sharing those details with her anyway.
“I had to own what I did,” Ward said. “I can’t blame James Prince. He made a move and I went for the move and I gotta live with it. … That was my first introduction to the business of boxing. You don’t get what’s fair. You don’t get what you think is right. You get what you negotiate.”
Ward also explained his rationale for his prolonged legal battle with late promoter Dan Goossen, whose company signed Ward right out of the 2004 Summer Olympics. Though he didn’t fight from November 2013 until June 2015, Ward is completely comfortable with how his career played out once he signed with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports, which promoted his final five fights, including his two victories over former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev.
Ward announced his retirement three months after he stopped Kovalev in the eighth round of their immediate rematch in June 2017 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
“I made more money in my three years with Roc Nation than I did the first 10 years of my career,” Ward said. “I got more control over my career, more say over my career. This is more of a partnership than somebody telling you what you need to do. I’m not gonna have that old mentality and I don’t care how you feel about it. I’m going to do things my way the rest of the way. And Roc Nation gave me that opportunity.”
The documentary also includes interviews with Michael Jordan, whose company signed Ward to an endorsement deal, NBA star Damian Lillard, retired NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr., James Prince, Virgil Hunter, Ward’s career-long trainer and father figure, and late trainer Naazim Richardson.
Hunter revealed that he intentionally misinformed Ward that he suffered a “Grade-A sprain” to his left hand 10 days before his super middleweight title fight against Carl Froch. The veteran trainer convinced Ward that if his hand “was wrapped right” that he could endure the pain and get through a 12-round fight.
Unbeknownst to him, Ward actually sustained a fracture while landing a punch during his next-to-last sparring session prior to the Froch fight. Ward still defeated England’s Froch by unanimous decision in the final of Showtime’s “Super Six World Boxing Classic” in December 2011 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
“My career wasn’t perfect,” Ward said. “I made mistakes. You know, you have regrets. ‘Man, I could’ve did this better. I should’ve done that better.’ But at this point in life, it’s about sharing the story, about sharing failures, about sharing my process to get to the Hall of Fame [in 2022], so individuals know like, ‘Yo, this dude wasn’t perfect. He didn’t have a perfect background and my situation isn’t perfect. If he did it, maybe I can do it, too.’ But you have to understand where I come from. You have to understand what I’ve been through. But then you also have to understand, and in some cases accept, my makeup and who I am.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.