Andre Ward Tells His Story In New Showtime Documentary

Six Years After Walking Away from His Career with a Joshua Megafight on the Horizon, Andre Ward
Finally Tells His Whole Story.

Andre Ward was always a breed apart. An undeniably exceptional talent, the 2004 Olympic gold
medalist nonetheless possessed a style that could be hard to appreciate. A thoughtful man, he
nonetheless often chose to avoid media. Determined to march to the beat of his own drum, he
appeared poised to break into the big time after his September 2012 sin over Chad Dawson, only largely
to disappear for the next three and a half years as he sat out his contract with promoter Dan Goossen.
And then, presented with a fat contract from HBO after scoring two wins over Sergey Kovalev, he
instead decided to retire with a record of 32-0 (16 KOs).

If, like many, you regard Ward as something of an enigma, the new documentary SOG: The Book of
Ward, which premieres in the United States on Friday June 2 on Showtime, may help explain what made
Ward into the focused and strong-willed – some might say stubborn – man he became. Born in San
Francisco, California to two drug addicts – a mother who left him and a father who stayed with him,
whom he adored and who introduced him to boxing, but who died suddenly at age 45 from a heart
attack, two years before Ward went to the Olympics – Ward was forced to become self-reliant at an
early age. Having willingly been opaque through much of his boxing career, he is relieved and happy for
his full story to now be available to all.

“This doc has been therapeutic for me,” he said recently on the Showtime Boxing Podcast. “When the
world first saw me in 2004, I was fresh off the streets, man. I had just given my life to God, I was just
trying to clean my life up, trying to figure things out. And I had studied the sport as a young person; I
didn’t want to come into the sport with the same story. ‘My parents were on drugs, I was struggling …'
And I just wasn’t ready. I wanted the media and the fans to embrace me for who I was, but I knew in the
back of my mind I was probably going to tell my story one day, and I wanted it to be in my words. That
day is here. It is a little scary to pull back the covers in depth, the way that we have. But it was necessary.”

Anybody who doesn’t know anything at all about Ward or who he is, is unlikely to find a compelling
reason to watch the documentary, particularly as it is quite long, clocking in at approximately 104
minutes. Nor should a viewer expect an overly critical presentation: Ward, after all, was the producer
and creative force behind it, and sunk, in his words, “well into six figures” of his own money into
creating it. But nor is it hagiography. Kovalev and Carl Froch are shown providing negative opinions of
him, albeit in archival footage rather than original interviews. He addresses the personal and
professional cost of his split with Goossen and acknowledges his complicity in their relationship
becoming ruptured. He sheds some tears. So too, perhaps unsurprisingly, does HBO’s Jim Lampley, who
is one of the talking heads who features, alongside the likes of Ward’s former manager James Prince,
none other than Michael Jordan, and former NFL running bank Marshawn Lynch, whose interview
segments are classic Lynch.

One of the treats is seeing footage of a young Ward being interviewed during amateur tournaments and
realizing that that the self-possessed nature that has been a defining feature of his career and adulthood
was present at an early age, as if he emerged from the womb fully formed.

“I’ve always been that kind of a person, since I was a kid,” he told the Showtime Boxing Podcast. “I’ve
always been that kind of focused kid. I just got off track and was focused on other things, but when I got
back on track it was not hard for me to stay focused. Boxing is easy math for me. I know there’s guys out
there that put things in their bodies and live a certainly lifestyle. I'm not judging them, but they’ve got
to work that out. But from an athletic and boxing standpoint, if I don’t do that, I’ve got the advantage.
Simple math. If I win my next fight, my money goes up. If I lose, my money goes down. That’s simple
math. I’ve got a window; I don’t know how long that window will be open, but if I give it everything I’ve
got while it is, things can go great; if I don’t, they won’t. That’s simple math to me. So, I just did the
mathematics and just chose to suffer and sacrifice and have a Hall of Fame conversation when all is said
and done.”

The documentary’s denouement, inevitably, is his decision to retire while still relatively young and at the
top of his game. If it shocked a lot of people, it was a decision he had been ready to make for some time,
even with some literally heavyweight offers coming his way.

“I really wanted to be done two, three years before,” he said. “And it doesn’t make sense to people
when I say that, [but] I’ve been doing it since I was nine years old. And I gave up a childhood. I had
moments when I was a kid, but really, I was living a regimented lifestyle. I was this phenom early. So, my
classmates were going to school and doing normal stuff, and I was at the Nationals in Texas fighting for
the whole week. You do that long enough and it starts to wear on you a little bit. Then you go through
some battles in the sport of boxing – outside the ring, inside the ring. The time away from your family
starts to add up. The wear and tear on the body starts to add up. Just, again, doing the math. ‘I don’t
know if I want to do this anymore.’ And I would do that periodically in that two- or three-year span
before I retired, and my wife would be like, ‘Babe, I don’t think it’s time.’ And I would get frustrated. ‘I
want my freedom back.’”

The moment he knew for certain that it was time was, he said, before the Kovalev rematch.
"I had to win in order to follow through with that plan,” he explained. “Because [if I didn’t] there would
be a third fight. And I didn’t want to fight that dude three times. But I knew. The first training camp was
a lot. The fight nearly got canceled two or three times. My knee kept swelling up. [The documentary
shows his knee being drained in the locker room before he heads to the ring.] I can’t believe I made it to
the fight and then made it through the fight. The second fight, I think because I had made the decision
to walk away, it was the best camp I had in my whole career. I felt light, I had fun. It was the most fun
I’ve had in a training camp. I didn’t really feel a lot of pressure. There were no knee issues. It was just

Of course, given how well everything had gone – both in camp, and with Ward stopping Kovalev in the
fight itself – he began to second-guess himself.

“If I stayed around, the plan was for Tony Bellew at cruiserweight and Anthony Joshua at heavyweight. I
wasn’t going to mess around at light-heavyweight. I beat the guy already. I started moving in that
direction, and then my heart shifted again and I thought, ‘I don’t want to do it.’ So, I began to pull the
plug and undo what was in motion. I had a two-or-three fight deal with HBO on the table. There are
some days when I’m shocked I stayed away and didn’t come back.”

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