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Andre Ward is Still Writing His Story

The Hall of Fame boxer discusses his career, new book, and the current state of boxing with Boardroom, including a look at Ryan Garcia vs. Devin Haney.

Andre Ward is as decorated a boxer as they come.

After winning a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Ward went 32-0 over a 14-year career, winning multiple championship belts in two weight classes before retiring in 2017 at age 33. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2021, his first year of eligibility, and was a well-regarded commentator for several years at ESPN before a round of layoffs hit the company last summer.

Just before his 40th birthday back in February, Ward published his memoir Killing the Image: A Champion’s Journey of Faith, Fighting, and Forgiveness, a tale of highs and lows over a career that was lived simultaneously in the spotlight and in the shadows. Now at 40, Ward is searching for his place in boxing as the sport looks for its own place in an evolving sports and entertainment landscape.

(Photo courtesy of Audrey Blackmore)

While Ward hinted at his childhood struggles during his career, turning to the streets growing up as his parents battled drug addiction, he chose to wait until he retired before sharing his entire story with his mother’s blessing. Ward is still what he called an ’80s baby who was raised to keep his and his family’s issues to himself. It was all part of what he called a process of getting to a place where he could overcome his shameful past.

“Sometimes fans want to know all of your business, and there’s times when they just want you to shut up and fight,” Ward said as part of the Boardroom Talks series. “I may even have been bigger, maybe sold more tickets, more pay-per-view buys, been more relatable to people had I gone public during my career. One of the things I heard people say throughout the years is he seems too perfect. Well, I’m human. I was going through stuff and have gone through things just like everybody else.”

Growing up in the Bay Area, Virgil Hunter was Ward’s godfather, coach, and, eventually, trainer during his career. Hunter always knew Ward would be different, from spotting fighters’ intricate tendencies in the ring to knowing when to hang up his gloves and leave the ring for good. As he approached the end of his career in his early 30s, Ward knew it was time to not just save his money but properly invest it.

The 6-foot Ward considers himself lucky that he didn’t get involved with shady promoters who didn’t necessarily have his best interest in mind, all too common for boxers throughout the sport’s storied history. But now, in the age of social media, boxers are in a position where they can essentially promote themselves. That puts the fighters in a position of power and strength as they negotiate with networks, promoters, and managers. That dynamic allows for improvement for a broken system long in dire need of structural and wholesale repairs.

What’s the best path for these young fighters today?

“Let’s learn to play the game. Let’s play it at a higher level than we have in the past,” Ward said. “Let’s not just get enamored with making more money than you ever have. The money will be there. Let’s start digging into that contract. Let’s pause on signing that and start asking some questions. Let’s start educating ourselves so when we come back to the table, we can say, ‘Yeah, that’s more money than I’ve ever made before, but I’m actually owed a lot more, and I won’t fight until I get that.'”


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The old adage managers or promoters would use on fighters, “If I didn’t find you, you wouldn’t be here,” is more or less obsolete in the age of social media, Ward believes. Fighters should now be empowered to proclaim, “If I don’t fight, you don’t make any money,” and “We’re a team, but you work for me.”

“These are not just things you say from a place of arrogance, but you’ve got to set the record straight,” Ward said. “And then once we have an understanding, we can go back to being on the same team.”

Ward warns that power needs to come with education, financial literacy, and advisors for these young athletes, who he believes need the ability to unionize to advance present and future generations of fighters. Young fighters today need to understand, he continued, that it’s a business first and a sport second, and you need a strong team and foundation around you to thrive. Many have the opposite approach, he said, where fighters believe the money will take care of itself if they win in the ring.

A strong foundation seems to be what Ryan Garcia lacks as he enters Saturday’s WBC super lightweight title match against champion Devin Haney at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center as a serious underdog. Garcia has used his large social media following to go public with mental health issues, depression, being sexually abused as a child, a split from his longtime trainer, and his reported recent marriage proposal to an adult film star.

“I haven’t experienced anything quite like he’s dealing with, and I don’t even fully know what he’s dealing with. We just see that it’s not normal, and it doesn’t seem to be right,” Ward said. “Ryan says he’s a man of faith. He needs to start there, and he needs to get off social media and stop doing interviews right now. If you are really concerned about your mental health bro, you got to get offline. He needs to get some counseling and try to settle down. Instead, he’s broadcasting everything and oversharing. It’s making the situation worse. So I would advise him to get quiet and start working on yourself.”

On the other hand, Ward called Haney a skillful boxer with a high ceiling who hasn’t made any bad decisions yet.

“He works hard and he’s disciplined, cut from the Floyd Mayweather cloth,” Ward said. “Floyd had him under his wing at a young age and he took a lot from Floyd in terms of the discipline and how to train and prepare for a fight.”

While Ward recognizes and appreciates the best fighters in the game today, he doesn’t have a problem with influencer-type bouts and cards starring the likes of Logan and Jake Paul, MMA fighters, and this summer, Mike Tyson. While they’re not championship-level fighters, they’ve gotten their followings to a point where there’s crossover appeal to people who wouldn’t normally watch the sport.

“If you have a problem with what the Paul brothers are doing, get your money up, get your fan base up,” Ward said. “Because they’ve worked hard to build a fan base, notoriety, and fame. And that fan base has followed them to the sport.”

Right now, Ward is still in a transitional phase in life. He doesn’t fully know what’s next, but he’s confident he’ll always have his hands in boxing in some capacity, whether that’s through broadcasting, his own show, business, or mentorship. As long as he sticks to his main principles of encouragement, faith, and forgiveness, his place in boxing and the world as he enters his 40s will take care of itself.

“People think the fighting is just for barbaric people or tough people. And what we got to accept and realize that we’re all fighting something,” Ward said, finally telling his full truth. “I would encourage people to look at themselves and have the courage to fight for what you believe in. I’m now at a place in life where I can sit back and finally write my story.”

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Shlomo Sprung

Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.