Former world super-middleweight and light-heavyweight champion Andre Ward admits that retiring as an undefeated champion was his way of breaking the mould.
In an exclusive interview with ProBox TV, Ward – who called it a day after 32 wins – spoke about how aware he has been of boxing stereotypes over the years, and those who have not known when to quit.
“These fighters come from nothing, they have something for a little bit of time, and then there’s like this crash and burn, and it’s just accepted,” Ward explained. “I know I didn’t want to be that.”
Ward has the courage to speak out and the conviction to be different, and he does both in his new book, Killing the Image, which is out today (November 14).
The first-ballot Hall of Famer and former ESPN analyst retired following an eighth-round victory over Sergey Kovalev in 2016, and felt the time was right to tell his story.
The book breaks a lot of new ground, with Ward taking the reader behind the scenes on his childhood and adolescence, openly discussing his parents and their drug problems and his how his own life was going down the wrong path.
“It originated from my past,” Ward said, of why he has penned his first memoir. “I was talking about being frustrated about some of the guys who I was mentoring and they were like, ‘Man, you didn’t come from this, you don’t get it’ and [when hearing that he did] they said, ‘You got to kill the image’. And they said, ‘Who you are is real, but it’s not who you’ve always been’. You can tell this story now.”
Ward ducks no subjects and talks about his big fights, his doubts, the doubts of others and reveals a side that not even pre-fight build-up shows have been able to accurately document.
“It’s going to pull the cover back and show I’m not just an athlete who won a gold medal, I have a story, it’s a very deep story, it’s a story that many people in this world and in America have, I was just ready to finally tell mine,” he said.
And speaking to ProBox, Ward discussed his awareness about what the media wants, how it wants people to act and what resonates with the public, but how he refused to buckle to the demands of others.
“I’ve always felt like boxing was short-sighted in the sense that for a young African American fighter, specifically, we have to be like Floyd [Mayweather] or else we’re not interesting,” he explained. “And they want to use things like punching power or this and that and it’s like, ‘Nah.’ I have a guy like Danny Jacobs who has overcome cancer, Danny hits plenty hard and he’s a model citizen, he raises his son and you guys [the media] don’t push him… So I also had to resist some of the images that were pushed on me throughout my career.”
Ward wants to stay involved with the sport. He has found a new passion with writing, can see another two or three books on his horizon, and he remains a student of boxing. His deal with ESPN might be over, but he might yet return to an analyst’s booth or interviewing big-time fighters.
“It would be selfish not to give back,” he said. “I think I’m open. It has to be the right situation.”