With the surgical precision of a well-timed jab, Andre Ward hits back with purpose when you ask the question. He walked away from boxing in 2017 but has never left the spotlight, serving as a commentator for ESPN.
So, why the documentary? Ward’s answer: Why not?
S.O.G.: The Book of Ward debuts on Showtime on Friday. The film is the latest project from Uninterrupted, LeBron James’ and Maverick Carter’s media company. It is directed and executive produced by Rachel Neubeck with co-director Diaunte Thompson.
Uninterrupted’s brand has always been about athletes telling their stories, so Ward is also credited as an executive producer. The Hall of Famer has an inspiring story, rising from a difficult childhood in Oakland, California to becoming an Olympic gold medalist, a five-time world champion, and retiring at 33 with a 32-0 record.
“It’s not how you start,” Ward told Awful Announcing in an interview over Zoom. “It’s really how you respond to adversity and how you finish. You can grow up in a situation that is less than ideal and it doesn’t have to define you. A lot of things happened early on in my life and even things that I did by my own hands. The story could have been written differently. I’m grateful that we’re here talking about it today.”
Ward is the son of parents who battled addiction. His mother Madeline Arvie was hooked on crack cocaine, and his late father Frank Ward on heroin. For a time, Ward said in the documentary that he was a drug dealer in the Bay Area. The details of how he quit that life are remarkable. We won’t spoil it for you but it involves laxatives.
This funny/sad tale was a turning point as he focused more on his amateur boxing career. He also credits his faith. His nickname is an acronym for “Son of God,” and one of his mentors is former NFL running back turned ordained minister Napoleon Kaufman.
While Ward admits to missing boxing, he also said that it was always his plan to leave the sport early rather than hang on too long. Combat sports take a tremendous toll on the body and some participants never recover physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
“I’m a believer, and I’m a Christian,” Ward said. “That was my foundation. You don’t have to be who the world says you have to be. You can have a vision for that life and you can follow that vision.”
S.O.G.: The Book of Ward features home movies and archival footage, including some amazing clips of Ward boxing as a child. Making this documentary was also a chance for Ward to revisit memories of his father. Frank Ward, who introduced his son to boxing, died at 45 due to a heart attack in 2002.
The elder Ward never saw his son win the light heavyweight gold medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
“It was very therapeutic but also very difficult,” Andre Ward said. “You’re peeling off old scabs. You are also facing things that you have suppressed for a period of time. But working through that, I got to a place where it was therapeutic for sure.”
Ward is retired but staying busy. He’s one of the few people in America with ties to Michael Jordan and Michael B. Jordan. Michael Jordan signed Ward to his Jordan Brand during his boxing career. As for Michael B. Jordan, Ward portrayed Danny ‘Stuntman’ Wheeler in Creed and Creed II.
Ward would consider pursuing more roles.
“I feel like I have an acting bug,” the 39-year-old said. “I don’t know if I’ll do any more films, but I feel like I could act if I wanted to.”
That would add another fascinating chapter to an already compelling life story.
S.O.G.: The Book of Ward premieres Friday, June 2 on Showtime at 8 p.m. ET/PT. It’ll be available on Showtime streaming and on-demand platforms that same day.