While viewing the new compelling documentary on Andre Ward (S.O.G: The Book Of Ward) streaming on Showtime, I thought of our interview in 2009.
Ward was 25, an undefeated professional fighter and winner of a gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.
It was five days out from his fight with heavy favorite Mikkel Kessler in the first round of The Super Six Tournament. Ward was intense and articulate. Smart. An old soul.
When I brought up his late father, he grew quiet. He shifted. The pain ran deep. Ward’s guard was up. I sensed his pain and discomfort and did not follow up.
The Kessler bout was memorable. Ward was an unproven underdog. Kessler and his team were overconfident. Ward was hungry. He dominated over 11 rounds. Kessler complained. Ward punched. His hometown crowd roared. It was quite a coronation.
In The Super Six final, Ward fought Carl Froch with a fractured hand, as revealed in the documentary. Trainer Virgil Hunter told him it was a sprain, not a break. He could fight through the pain. He did and defeated Froch.
Over the years, we did talk about his family life and struggles, but never like he does in the new documentary.
“It was getting bad,” said Ward on his 17-year-old self. “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.”
The documentary touches on his relationship with manager James Price and his breakup with promoter Dan Goossen.
Ward lost two years of his career battling Goossen. The pain was palpable. Only after Goossen’s untimely death was their lawsuit resolved.
He signed with Roc Nation Sports and never looked back. The company promoted his last five fights, including his final two against Sergey Kovalev.
“I made more money in my three years with Roc Nation than I did the first ten years of my career,” Ward said. “I got more control over my career, more say over my career.”
Ward reveals an old knee injury hindered him in his first fight against Kovalov – who knocked him down in round two. Ward got up and rallied.
To his credit, he has no problem with boxing fans who think he lost the fight. Officially, he didn’t. He won the rematch by stoppage.
Three months after the Kovelov fight, Ward retired from boxing.
“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.”
Ward always knew who he was.
He talked it and walked it.
His story is inspirational.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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