If you put it to any boxing fan to name their favourite fight of all time, there would be a host of usual suspects cited.Typically, there will be mentions of battles such as Hagler vs Hearns or perhaps even Leonard vs Hearns. They could mention an iconic heavyweight bout like Ali and Foreman’s “Rumble in The Jungle”. You could even hear the likes of Castillo vs Corrales, or conceivably Pryor vs Arguello from some of the better-versed boxing fans.
Any of the above are worthy contenders, and worthy champions contested each bout, however, I have a different opinion, that will be shared by many others. My favourite fight of all time is Gatti vs Ward I, a razor-tight affair that swung back and forth like a pendulum between two men with iron chins, unlimited heart and terrific fighting spirits.
The fight was an awesome spectacle of the highest order, andwas named The Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year for 2002 when Ward took home an excruciatingly close MD from their meeting in Connecticut. Given the closeness of the matchup and the brutal and relentless nature with which it was fought, it simply HAD to be run back. The two men ended up having a further two contests to create one of the most renowned trilogies of boxing history, that is revered with the likes of Ali vs Frazier, Barrera vs Morales, Holyfield vs Bowe and Vasquez vs Marquez.
Last week, May 18th marked the 18th anniversary of the first episode of Gatti and Ward. To commemorate this landmark, I felt it would be prudent to revisit not just the first fight, but all three instalments, to try and alleviative myself of lockdown blues. And so, on Friday night, I aptly parked myself up with a case of Corona and set myself down for thirty rounds of pure, pugilistic pleasure.
Arturo “Thunder” Gatti was born and spent his early years in his native Italy. He then moved to Montreal in Canada as a young man with his family. It was there that he took up the sport of boxing and became a naturalised Canadian. Gatti excelled as an amateur, and was a member of Team Canada, and came very close to representing his adopted country at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Arturo instead opted to embark on a career as a professional boxer. At the age of 19 he moved to New Jersey in the US to begin his pro journey.
Despite an SD blemish in 1992, the furious fisted Gatti amassed a solid record of 23-1-0, picking up the USBA super featherweight title in the process. Then in December 1995, the New Jersey resident challenged Tracy Patterson (son of Floyd) for world honours at Maddison Square Garden. Gatti was taken the distance for only the fifth time in his careerwhen he scored a UD victory over Patterson to take home the IBF title. Gatti added a few defences and repeated his triumph over Patterson in a rematch at the scene of the first fight in 1997.
In 1997, Gatti won his first of a noteworthy four Ring Magazine Fight of the Year titles when he defended against Mexican Ruelas. It was in this fight Gatti first displayed his immense chin, after he absorbed some severe punishment from Ruelas, before miraculously coming back to knock out the Mexican in the fifth innings.
After struggling with the 130lb limit, Gatti decided to move up to lightweight. At 135lbs Gatti lost for the second time in his career against Puerto Rican, Angel Manfredy. Gatti then suffered successive losses to Ivan Robinson in 1998, the first of which, an SD loss, was Gatti's second bout to be named Ring Magazine Fight of the Year.
After his three successive losses, many in boxing wrote Gatti off as a brawler, and there were suggestions he was not living the life out of the ring and would struggle to achieve much else.
A then 28-year-old Gatti continued to fight but reverted to his slick amateur style. He rebuilt with a string of comfortable victories before taking on the Golden Boy himself, Oscar De La Hoya at 140lbs in 2001. De La Hoya was himself rebuilding after his first loss to Shane Mosley. De La Hoyaproved just too good for Gatti and stopped him in the fifth. After the fight, De La Hoya claimed that Gatti hit him harder than anyone had before.
Gatti was young and had a lot of boxing still left in him. He beat former world champion Terron Miller to improve his record to 34-5-0, before turning his sights to renowned brawler Micky Ward for a proper fan’s fight.
“Irish” Micky Ward came from a fighting family from Lowell, Massachusetts. Ward was a decent amateur, and thrice won the New England Golden Gloves tournament, before turning pro in 1985 at the age of 20.
Ward's brother, "The Pride of Lowell" Dicky Eklund, was also a professional fighter who was once beaten on points by "Sugar" Ray Leonard. The older Eklund amassed a record of 19-10-0 before walking away from the sport. Issues with addiction and crime then followed for Eklund, culminating in him going to jail in 1995.
Ward had a decent start to his paid career, amassing a record of 14-0-0. He wowed fans with his unremitting style, before dropping an SD to Edwin Curry in 1987. Ward's career became a bit of a rollercoaster ride after the Curry loss, and in 1991 Ward found himself with a broken hand that required surgery, and a record of 21-7-0. Unsure he could compete at a decent level, the Lowell native walked away from boxing and retired. He resumed his job as a road paver and with his wages paid for reconstructive surgery in his hand.
However, in 1994, following surgery and encouragement from his brother Eklund, Ward returned to the ring and amassedseven back to back victories in as many years. These includedupset victories over unbeaten prospects like then Top Rank protegee Louis Veader, twice, and Mexican champion Alfonso Sanchez on the Whittaker vs De La Hoya undercard. Ward’s unyielding and persistent nature captivated Top Rank supremo Bob Arum and American TV audiences alike, which in turnproduced him a shot at world honours against the IBF light-welterweight champion Vince Phillips.
Ward was unsuccessful against Phillips after a cut from a punch left him unable to continue in the third round. Ward bounced back with a routine win over Mark Fernandez in 1998, and then encountered a fresh-faced 15-0 Zab Judah. The tricky Judah cruised to a UD victory over Ward. Wardbounced back with an additional three victories to extend his resume to 34-9-0.
In 2000 Ward then travelled across the pond and boxed in the UK for the first time and only time, when he fought at theLondon Olympia on a Matchroom bill promoted by Barry Hearn. Ward fought for the little-regarded WBU light-welterweight title against scouser Shae Neary, father of James Metcalf, the current light-middleweight Commonwealth champion. The fight against Neary is available on YouTube and is an essential watch for all boxing fans. Both men threw absolute hell for leather and battled at an unforgiving pace. Both men were pained, but it was Ward who triumphed, withreferee Micky Vann waving off the contest in the eighth, after Neary was dropped for the second time. Ward exhibited his trademark left hook to the body, left hook to the head combination on several instances to tremendous effect.
After his victory in the UK, Ward fought Antonio Diaz on the undercard of Naseem Hammed vs Sanchez, and he dropped a close decision. He bounced back with wins over Quionez and Emmanuel Augustus, which was to be the first of three successive Ring Magazine Fights of the Year for Ward, before losing a TD to former world champion Jesse James Leija.
After the defeat against Leija, at the age of 37, Ward knew he only had a few fights left in him, especially with his all-action, brutal style, and so he set his eyes on some well-paid contests. Fight fans clamoured for a matchup between Gatti and Ward, two tenacious gladiators of their era who did not know how to manufacture a boring bout. HBO fronted the money, and the two men agreed to fight at a catchweight of 142lbs.
Ward vs Gatti I
May 18th, 2002 - Montville Connecticut
The two pugilists locked horns in Connecticut, the neighbouring state to Ward’s Massachusetts home. When the first bell rang, the late-great trainer and commentator on the night, Emmanuel Steward, aforesaid that the contest could produce “nothing but a great fight”. Emmanuel could simply not have been more right.
Ward comes straight at Gatti, assuming the centre of the ring, taking the battle to Gatti. Gatti looks well on his back foot, dancing about avoiding most of Ward’s shots. Gatti succeedsin opening a bit of a cut over the right eye of Ward with a punch. Gatti landing successive, fast and thudding combinations on Ward and multiple jabs. I forgot what a marvellous jab Gatti has. Ward throws clubbing hooks and big straight rights at Gatti, landing a few decent shots. Not enough jabbing from Ward. Good round for Gatti, who is turning off very well when in close to avoid the vast majority of Ward’s work.
(On a side note, the likeness for Ward’s cut man with the officer from the film of his life is remarkable!)
Ward starts better with a good left hook, but Gatti didn’t let him land too much for too long. Good skills from Gatti who keeps popping his jab to terrific effect. The low left hand of Gatti is almost inviting the straight right from Ward who is always on him. Great few combos, and big shots to the body from Gatti toward the end of the round. Ward is always walking down Gatti, trying to reduce the distance. Gatti gets a warning for a low blow. Gatti looks superb, while Ward's face is starting to cut up a fair bit and now sports a bloody nose.
Ward comes out with a tighter guard. Great left hook by Gatti. Ward lands his trademark double left in close but receives a good combo and turn off by Gatti after. Gatti is doing well to move off after each of his attacks, but he just cannot keep Ward off. Again, double left hook from Ward. Ward has a bit of success end of the round but kops a big right hook. Both men are trading off close, and both men are ploughing forward, trading big leather. What a round! Gatti’s round but Ward making some real headway, and it’s turning into the tear up it was destined to be.
Bit of a slower start, but a huge right from Ward staggersGatti and Gatti looks a touch discombobulated. Here we go!Both men are firing huge shots upstairs and down. Few huge clean shots from Ward to the head and body, but Gatti replieswith his own assault of hooks. Pure boxing porn! Now a considerable shot from Gatti to the body makes Ward stagger away, but it is called low. Gatti loses a point, and Ward punches the floor in pain. Ref calls break but doesn’t call for atime out, so Ward doesn't get his five minutes. Replays show it was way below but didn’t look intentional.
10-8 Ward because of the point taken off.
Gatti looks to get back to boxing after a few rounds fighting Ward’s fight. Lands some good clean shots on Ward, but soon as Gatti stops, Ward marches forward again. Massive pressurefrom the Massachusetts man who targets the body of Gatti. The fight is swinging like a pendulum, with both menthrowing some vast bombs. Micky Ward’s body shots are athing of beauty! Every time Gatti looks tired, he bangs a few clean hard hooks back and swings his whole body into it. Gatti backs Ward up, and he looks hurt, but then Ward comes back with several huge shots, and Gatti now looks tired! The bell comes seemingly thirty seconds early.
Ward’s corner is urging him on. Gatti’s trainer Buddy McGirt is imploring him to get backing to turning off and not fight Ward’s fight and avoid body punishment.
The crowd on their feet as we get into the second half of the first fight. What an atmosphere that would be to experience live! Again, Gatti gets back to boxing, and again, Ward just keeps plodding forward, bringing the fight to Gatti. Nice cute uppercuts in close from Gatti are particularly eye-catching. A big colossal right haymaker from Ward just bounces off the Canadian’s head. Gatti paws at Ward with his jab repeatedly.The better shots are landed by Gatti, with a few considerable shots to finish. Ward pounds chest showing he can still come. Animal!
Gatti is again popping out his jab fantastically and fires a few right-left combos, literally teeing off on Ward’s head. Gatti is looking smooth and slick again. Ward switches to southpaw intermittently. Gatti is now proving harder to hit for Ward. I hate to say comfortable because Micky Ward charging at you will make you feel anything but, but this is possibly most comfortable Gatti has had it so far. Very little jabbing from Ward.
Eklund in the corner reprimanded Ward for being a punching bag and told to take the fight back to Gatti.
Ward back on him but Gatti is moving nice. Good left hookfrom Gatti, followed by some more big shots from Gatti that spin the head of Ward. Before Ward can answer, Gatti moves off. Great work! It is looking like Gatti’s fight, but as soon as I say that, huge right from Ward forces Gatti off! Ward begins to chop away at his opponent’s body and is now landing his signature left body shot! But again, soon as Ward looks like he's got him going, an instant reply from Gatti who was backed onto the ropes! Big shots to the body from both man! Fantastic work, struggling to find words for the action. Every bit as incredible as I remember!
10-9 Gatti for me but could easily have gone to Ward.
Ward flies at the Canadian, peppering him and rips a huge left hook to the body of Gatti! Down goes Gatti! He looks in such awful pain! Somehow, Gatti gets up, but he looks out on his feet, and Ward just throws hell to leather and chucks the absolute kitchen sink at Gatti! Gatti takes a succession of shots, but then manages to pull back and rips out some substantial body shots off his own and finds the target with some more big shots on Ward, who looks like he may have punched himself out! Both men are bleeding, Ward back toropes, back he comes! Iconic! This is as good as boxing gets! Absolutely dumfounding as Gatti returns fire! Both man throwing huge punches, and both looks like they could go at any moment! Ward lands a huge trademark left to the head and body, but Gatti is somehow still on his feet! How are they both awake, let alone standing!? I've watched it nearly a hundred times, but I will never get bored of this round.Incredible! Name me a better round. Too quote Emmanuel Steward; The round of the century!
The tenth and final round starts with confusion as Ward’s corner think the fight is over but Gatti’s corner and the referee state it is not. The men embrace, and again, they set to work, although it looks as though we have lost thirty seconds due to the timekeeper starting at 2:30 for some reason.
Ward on the front foot, Gatti looks skilful again but does look to hold. Massive right from Ward bounces off the head of Gatti. They meet in the middle, Gatti lands some huge shots and backs Ward up. Ward replies with his own flurry at theend, but again Gatti responds! Either man is throwing some serious leather! The incredible fight ends with the bell, andboth men embrace.
Gatti 10-9 for me does enough to take the last.
I said it earlier, but words do not do it justice! An incredible fight that truly deserved it’s billing as the 2002 Fight of the Year. I forget how brutally and relentlessly the battle was fought by both Gatti and Ward. Both men went through hell and back, and every boxing fan should watch it once a year to remind them of its sheer awesomeness.
In my perspective, Gatti had the better boxing skill, but Ward had the power, and both men proved themselves a true fighter, and two of the toughest to have ever stepped into the squared circle.
On my card, I had it, Gatti, 95 Ward 93, but if the eighth went the other way as it could easily have done, I could see it being a draw. For me, Gatti landed the cleaner and more consistent work and just took a larger share of the rounds.
However, the judges’ scorecards read 94-93 Ward, 95-93 Ward and 94-94, making it an MD for Ward, a decision I have no complaints about.
Both sang the praises of the other, and there was not a disappointed spectator in the audience. With the fight in Connecticut where Ward is well liked, I do wonder if that’s why the judges gave it to “Irish”, however I take nothing away from Ward. Neither man deserved to be called a loser. An unreal fight, and the sort of fight that would make someone fall in love with boxing. Truly special.
Both men had to attend hospital and needed sufficient time to recover from their brutal encounter. One thing was sure after all the action and drama of their first war, the two men had to meet again, and of course, they did!
Now time for me to crack another beer, and onto fight number two. Let’s go!
Ward vs Gatti II
November 23rd, 2002 - Boardwalk Hall
The rematch was scheduled to take place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Gatti had lived since he was 19, and the mainly pro Gatti filled the arena. Michael Buffer was the man on the mic, and he introduced two of the toughest and rugged men to lace up a pair of gloves.
The first bell signals the start of fight two, or round eleven if you will. Ward fires a huge right at Gatti to start the contest, tidy from Gatti though, who replies with a stiff counter right. Gatti is again looking very intelligent on the back foot, popping off the jab and turning off Ward as he dives in. Looking like it may be a reasonably similar affair to the start of the first. Ward sneaks a little left hook into the body of Gatti. Gatti throws an eye-catching right-left combo that jerks the head back of Ward. Gatti is again looking very sharp andfast. Ward truly looks the older man in there chasing Gatti down.
At the end of the first innings, Gatti urged to stay low by McGirt and pivot off.
Comfortable for Gatti, 10-9
Straight back to it, big left to the head by Ward backs Gatti up, but the Canadian stays composed, weaving and keeping low as instructed by McGirt. Gatti pops the jab and Ward retaliates with a few good lefts. Gatti peppers Ward now and manages to land some nice work. An attempt at the iconic Micky Ward left up and down comes whiskers away from landing. Good round, nice work from both. Gatti rips some nice fast, hard left hooks to Ward’s head to finish. Decent, close round, but Gatti just a tad more fluent.
Gatti 10-9 could possibly be a draw.
Ward straight out again and Gatti replies with a good straight right. Ward is not throwing his jab enough, but then again, hebarely through it at all in the first fight. Boom! Ward is down! Ward suffers a massive right to the temple from Gatti and stumbles to the floor! The Lowell man gets up, but he looks quite unsteady. Gatti goes hard for the finish, pummelling Ward in the blue corner. Ward looks like he has no legs left, he could go at any second! Amazingly he urges Gatti on! Now Ward lands some of his own substantial big shots including abig left body head combo! Fantastic stuff, Gatti looks as though in trouble as he eats a gigantic right from Ward, but he holds on and fights back! What a round! Gatti’s but Ward is coming back into it.
Ward flies out of the blocks with two successive lefts but neither land. He keeps plodding on. Nothing big has landed following the drama of the last, then mid-way Ward lands a huge left after briefly switching southpaw. Gatti left eye starting to swell. Ward is virtually sitting on Gatti's chest, and they trade huge lefts. Both men are teeing off! Another brilliant round.
Very close, for me, probably 10-9 Ward who is pushing back.
Both out, Gatti holds Ward and Ward smacks the body in close. Gatti dances away, and Ward keeps coming forward, but Gatti just bobs and weaves, avoiding Ward’s bombs, and gets back on his toes and glides away. Gatti is working very nice off the back foot, with quick, popping shots. Again they meet in the middle, and again they are blasting away at each other. OOOOOO! The punch of round so far, a massiveuppercut to the ribs from Gatti. How Ward keeps coming is a mystery! Ward does well with a double left-right. Back comes Gatti. And then Ward. And Gatti. And Ward! Brutal stuff, just brutal! Certainly living up to the hype of their first clash!
Gatti is pawing with the left, and rips in some tidy rights to the body, and stumbles Ward with a left to the head and then afew successive jabs that pop back the head of Ward. Gatti is proving elusive, challenging for Ward to get anything off. Ward fires few lefts last 30 secs but to no avail. Tidy little exchange from either man at the end.
Mesmerising feet from Gatti again to start. Now Gatti takes a shot and throws his version of Ward's signature double left, but Ward takes it and as ever, forward he plods. Ward keeps on coming, but he hasn't landed much of note and has taken some evil body shots from Gatti. Gatti keeps low again and then throws a sharp right and dances off. He looks very comfortable. Now he backs Ward onto the ropes, and anuppercut rocks Ward, but not enough to deter him. Few clean shots at the end from Gatti who remains entirely in control.
Ward is trying to get his work off, but Gatti weaves low again. Good little jab and uppercut from Ward early on, but Gatti counters with a clean right that lands flush. It just seems like it was never going to be Ward’s night. Gatti boxing like the world-class boxer he is, while Ward is staying in there like the world-class combatant he is. Ward charges forward, and again the two warriors tee off on each other.
They meet in the centre and have a little exchange before Thunder hops onto the back foot to ensure he doesn’t take unnecessary risks. Ward pushing down Gatti and lands a few small left hooks, and he urges Gatti on who replies with a flurry, who then gets off on his toes. Ward bags some big shots, his first for a while but back comes Gatti who now has Ward on the ropes. Ward plods on, and Gatti holds some more.
For me, Gatti 10-9.
Here they come again for their 20th round, and Ward charges toward the Canadian, knowing he needs to stop him somehow. Ward lands some good shots, but Gatti looks to be happy to try and just frustrate Ward, but then all of a sudden Wardlands his best shots! Then as soon as I say that, Gatti pours forward and tees off again, and again! Another incredible fight between these two legends of the sport! Back comesWard with a huge left hook! Another scintillating innings. Both men are pouring it on. Ward knows he needs a stoppage and fires his all, but Gatti knows he just has to get through and dances away. They trade leather again at the end, but it is comfortable for Gatti.
A clear win for Gatti and I scored it 98-91. The judges had it a UD win for Gatti who took it on the scores with two scores of 98-91 and a 98-90. After the fight, Gatti praised his American dance partner and stated he “always wanted to know what it would be like to fight his twin, and now he knew”.
Another terrific fight, but Gatti at the age of 30, looked every bit the younger man against the 37-year old Ward. Thescintillating display from Gatti scuppered Ward's hopes for a rematch against Judah for the world title. The Canadian, on the other hand, looked sublime, and with names like Tzu, Judah and Mayweather all around the 140lbs limit, he had some excellent matchups he could try and get. However, in reality, there was only one fight the public would ever accept from Arturo Gatti; the rubber match with "Irish" Micky Ward.
Given the series was levelled, and given the excitement of the first two instalments, a third was always inevitable, and inevitably it would prove to be another fantastic affair. Few more beers, and some crisps, and here I come with the third instalment of one of the greatest trilogies of all time.
Gatti Ward III
June 7th, 2003 Boardwalk Atlantic City
Coming into the third fight, Ward declared the contest would be his swansong. Given his all-action style and the number of clean shots he took in his rollercoaster career, one would say that was a wise decision. They met at the scene of their previous encounter, where both men received great receptions, Ward, in account of his meritorious service to boxing, and Gatti, as Atlantic City's adopted son. The legendary Michael Buffer introduced them, and again the two soldiers set to work.
For the 21st time, Ward plods forward and brings the fight to Gatti. Ward gets Gatti onto the ropes and lands a few left hooks. Ward is jabbing well, which is surprising to see. Gatti standing in front of Ward and displays his nice fluid popping jab. Decent round, but almost a tame first innings for these two lunatics. Ward looks more composed than in the previous encounter but still maintains the same intensity.
Not much to split the round. I’ll go Ward 10-9.
Gatti nice and smooth; popping, slipping and sliding well. Ward trying to counter as Gatti throws but is not always landing. Gatti is looking excellent again. The crowd chantGatti’s name. In close, left to the body from Ward leaves Gatti to reel away, possibly a low blow, not intentional. Good exchange to end. Harold Lederman describes it very well; like watching two Rottweilers fight.
Gatti is popping out his great jab as per the last two fights. Ward eats a few and lands a few good successive left hooks of his own. Gatti backs Ward up and gives him a few decentshots onto the ropes. Ward flies with a big hook that misses, and he slips to the canvas. Gatti is very elusive, just like the second fight. Could be a long night for Ward.
To shut me up, Ward starts much better, and a massive left to body backs Gatti up, and Ward charges into him like a bull with some whopping clubbing shots. Great stuff! Gatti replies and lands a right hook that catches Ward on the hip. Gatti goes reeling in pain. A suggestion that Gatti has broken right hand. He now seldom throws it. Ward looks to have confidence and pours onto him and is landing with some monstrous shots. Gatti showing amazing heart and mixes it with Ward with his own left hooks, but still does pop the occasional right. Great round!
As they return to their corners, Gatti tells his McGirt he broke his hand, which in turn asks what he wants him to do. Unsurprisingly, Gatti tells him he wants to fight on. Absolute bollocks on the boy!
For me Ward 10-9 but very close.
Gatti comes out and is throwing some good hooks to the body. Gets back on his toes and happily tees off on Ward. Ward is now cut, not a surprise! Gatti comes forward again onto Wardand bravely fires his right again. Now Gatti is warned for a low blow. Ward replies with a massive right, and Gatti responds with a huge left, both men fighting with big shots! Breath-taking stuff!
Both men start eagerly and trade lefts in close. Gatti reverts to his jab, and Ward tries to maul Gatti and throws some big shots. Just at the end of the round, boom! Ward catches Gatti with a big right on the top of the head and drops him! The third time in as many fights that one of the men has been put down by a punch. Gatti was winning the round, but not by much, with the knockdown Ward has put himself right back into contention for a win!
The two champions meet in the middle of the ring, and they trade leather again. Another spectacular fight! Ward catches Gatti with a few big shots, Gatti looks hurt, but now he comes back, and fires both hands with little regard for his broken hand! Huge left from Gatti stumbles Ward! Everyone up in the arena is on their feet, screaming! What a flipping fight! Ward takes a few hard shots, but he’s still fighting! Another great, great round. Just as Ward looks unsteady, he smashes Gatti with a considerable straight right! Very close round, but better work and cleaner shots from Gatti.
10-9 Gatti crowd on their feet thundering their appreciation.
Good start from Ward, who scores with a few solid rights to the head of Gatti, followed by a chopping left to the body. He tries to capitalise on his success, but Gatti blocks well. Now Gatti’s turn and the Italian Canadian shows off his great jab again. Gatti winces as he throws his right, but he still does;Absolute warrior! Ward is struggling to get clean work off.
Gatti out well again, Ward trying to counter over Gatti’s jab with a big right that comes whiskers away. Both Men are showing huge damage to their faces in their 29th round together. Ward is trying to get in close, but as he does, he gets peppered by Gatti. Gatti is bobbing and weaving well. Good round for Gatti.
30th and final round these two gladiators will fight, and the final time Micky Ward will come out as a professional fighter.The two heroes embrace in the ring to much clamour. I might be drunk, but I feel like I could cry!
The bell rings, and off they go, Gatti lands clean in close, but Ward pours on and is chasing him down to try and get some work off. He lands a huge few shots on Gatti and Gatti sits onto the ropes to avoid more and then dances away. He and Ward meet in the middle again and, unsurprisingly, they trade leather. What a spectacle from these two. Huge shots from either man, trying to land every second they can for the last ten. The bells sounds and the two men fall straight into a huge hug.
For me, 96-92 Gatti. A lot closer than the second contest, but Gatti was the better boxer, and clearly looked the younger man. The judges scored it 96-93, 96-93 and 97-92 all for Gatti, who takes the series 2-1. Gatti deservedly took the last two, And I felt he snatched the first, but happy to see Ward take that one as 3-0 to Gatti doesn’t do Ward’s efforts justice. An astonishing trilogy, one that saw both fighters, the definition of warriors, deservedly paid well, and again theytook home the coveted Ring Magazine Fight of the Year in 2003. Gatti’s fourth award and Ward’s third successive!
The respect shown by both men in the ring after and before each fight transcended ordinary admiration, they sharedsomething more; true friendship. They embraced each other and even shared the same bottle of water during the post-fight interview! Two amazing warriors, and two great friends that are an example for any boxer. No matter what I type, I just don't think I can ever begin to do the three fights I just watched justice. Poetic and beautiful; boxing at its finest.
After the fight, Ward, then 38-13-0, stuck to his promise to retire, and became a trainer in his native Lowell with his brother, Dicky. Dicky and Micky’s relationship and Ward’s career is documented in the 2010 Oscar-winning film 'The Fighter', which stars Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Probably one of the best boxing films of all time, and a very decent watch. Check it out during lockdown, what else are you gonna do?
Gatti, on the other hand, continued to fight, and in his next contest, he fought fellow Italian Gianluca Branco for the WBC 140lbs title. Gatti won on the scorecards and became a two-weight world champion.
He defended his title a few times before defending against a then 33-0-0 Floyd Mayweather Jr, who beat Gatti handily, leading to Gatti’s corner throwing in the towel in the sixth. He returned at welterweight and took the lowly regarded IBA title with a victory against Thomas Damgaard. A fight with Argentinian WBC 147lb champion Carlos Baldomir followed for Gatti, but sadly, he was stopped again.
After the Baldomir loss, Gatti looked like he was finished. At the age of 34, and with a record of 40-8-0, two legitimate world titles and four Ring Magazine Fights of the Year, he could walk away with his head held high. However, like most fighters, the lure of one more battle proved too tempting for Gatti, and he returned in 2007 against one Alfonso Gomez.
Gatti split with his cornerman McGirt following the Baldomirloss, so required a new trainer. Who would he turn to train him for what would prove to be his last fight? His old buddy Micky Ward. The two former foes turned fond friends, set to work training and turned their attentions to the task in hand.
Sadly, it was not to be the fairy tale ending we would have hoped for the formidable pair, and Gatti was stopped in the 7th. Gatti was done, and after the fight he clarified as much, stating he would be coming back, but “only as a fan”. He retired with a record of 40-9-0.
Gatti and Ward went their separate ways but remained in touch as close pals. Ward continued with his gym business, and also brought a hockey rink in his hometown and became a motivational speaker with his brother Dicky. Gatti returned to where he grew up in Montreal, Canada and started a property business. Both looked as though they had managed to have great careers, and also built happy futures for themselves and their families. Alas, tragedy struck, and on the day of his sister’s wedding in Brazil in 2009, Gatti died in suspicious circumstances.
Gatti was found dead in his hotel room, with a strap from his wife's bag around his neck. His wife was arrested for homicide, but after the coroner's report ruled it a suicide, she walked free. The circumstances around his death were murky, to say the least, with Gatti's friends and family laying the blame at his wife with whom he was allegedly seeking a divorce. Ward claimed he could “never believe Gatti would take his own life”. Gatti did have carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant, in his system, along with alcohol. A toxicologist from Quebec retained by the coroner said the drug could produce symptoms such as anxiety, confusion and psychosis.
Micky Ward paid tribute to his friend and attended Gatti’s posthumous induction into the Boxing Hall of Fame. He said “I miss him to death every day, and I think of him every day. I know he is with me, wherever I go”. It is a shame we could not see the two legends today sit back with a beer and reminisce of their great times together, but as fans, we mustappreciate what they did for boxing, and the way they both fought with incredible heart, putting it all on the line every time they went to battle.
Sadly, it seems as though we will never know what happened to Arturo "Thunder" Gatti. However, we can value his legacy as a fighter, and as a two-weight world champion, who gave his all each time he stepped into the ring and produced arguably the most remarkable trilogy of all time, with help from his friend and dance partner, “Irish” Micky Ward.
By Aaron Ludford of SimBoxx
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