|Fight of the Year - Round of the Century|
Both fighters had a fighting style that was considered fan friendly, and the average blue collar worker found it very easy to relate to them. Gatti had been in a few wars, and in order to preserve his boxing shelf life, Buddy McGirt came on board as his new trainer. Buddy emphasized boxing not brawling, and Gatti 34-5 (28KO's) looked fantastic in his last outing against Terron Millett - clearing the path for the fight with Ward.
Micky had lost his last fight by technical decision on a cut due to a head butt against Jesse James Leija (the replay proved that ruling inaccurate) but he looked fantastic in his previous fight against Emanuel Burton, an instant classic which was voted Ring Magazine's 2001 "Fight of the Year." The fight was a natural, as both men seemed to revive their careers at the same time. Both were known as good punchers, but it is Micky's left hook to the body that is known to be world class.
|War erupts in Connecticut!|
In the second, Ward starts to use his jab, and is starting to find a home for his right hand. Near the end of the round, Gatti is warned to keep the punches up. In the third, Ward lands his first good hook to the body, and it slows Gatti down, forcing him to trade. Ward answers right back with more hooks to the head and body near the end of the round.
The crowd erupts, making it almost impossible to hear the bell.
|Ward reacts to a low blow in the 4th|
Ward is soaking up a lot of punishment in the fifth, but incredibly, he comes roaring back near the end of the round and almost takes off Gatti's head with a hard left hook at the bell. The fight is now half way over and it's dead even.
In rounds six through eight, the momentum of the fight changes yet again. Gatti continues to box, but Ward starts to impose his will on the fight and he is finally rewarded for his work to the body in the eighth round, and Gatti looks hurt at the bell. "Keep hitting him in the body!" says trainer Dick Eklund, giving good advice in the Ward corner.
At this point, the fight has more than lived up to it's expectations, but little did the fight fans know, the Ring Magazine "Round of the Year" was still yet to come! Ward charges out of the corner for the ninth, and lands a right to the head and a hard left to the body, forcing Gatti to hold. He lands another viscous left hook to the body, and Gatti is down! Gatti's face is a mask of pain, and he barely makes it up at nine. A lesser fighter would not have made it back to his feet, and Gatti would surely have been forgiven if he'd stayed down.
The 9th round is only thirty seconds old, and Gatti is in BIG trouble. Ward goes right back to the body and lands hooks and right hands to the head but Gatti refuses to go down! Micky's punched himself out, and now it's Arturo "Thunder" Gatti roaring back with hooks and right hands to the head. Micky is against the ropes soaking up punishment, and he takes a big breath before pounding his gloves, as if to say "come on!" Now it's Gatti who is spent, and Ward hits him with with hooks, right hands, and body shots - sucking the life out of him. Gatti is totally defenseless as he's bounced from one ring post to the next. Ward adds a few more hooks to the head, and somehow, Gatti survives the round. The crowd roars in approval, again drowning out the bell.
"This should be round of the century!" famously declares Emanuel Stewart on HBO.
In the Gatti corner there is concern for their fighter's condition, and at the start of the tenth and final round, there is some confusion, as everyone thinks Gatti is done for the evening. The timekeeper forgets to stop the clock, and the final round turns into a short two minute round. For the remainder of the bout, Gatti tries to box and keep his distance, while Ward tries to land the hook to the body, and lands a few hard right hands to the head. The Ring's "Fight of the Year" comes to it's conclusion, and "Irish" Micky Ward is declared the winner by very close, but well earned majority decision.
|Ward pays the high price of victory|
The third fight was Ring Magazine's 2003 "Fight of the Year" and once again, both men needed a trip to the hospital. In the aftermath of their amazing trilogy, both men became good friends and they were spotted occasionally out on the town, or at the fights.
The trilogy was compared to the 1940's Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano classics, the ultimate compliment. After the third fight, Gatti went on to victories against Gianluca Branco, Leonard Dorin, and Jesse James Leija before losing badly to pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather. He then moved up to welterweight and won the vacant IBA belt against Thomas Damgaard. This was his last victory. He suffered a TKO loss to Carlos Baldomir and cut ties with trainer Buddy McGirt, before asking his old rival Micky Ward to replace him. On July 11, 2007 Gatti took on Alfonso Gomez and lost by brutal TKO. "I'll be back... as a spectator," said Arturo with a sheepish look on his face. Gatti's final record: 40-9-0 (31KO's). Almost two years later to the day, on July 11, 2009, Gatti was found dead in his hotel room in Brazil while on vacation with his new wife. Although it was ruled a suicide, to this day many feel it was a homicide.
As for Ward, he wisely retired after the last Gatti fight, and he still lives in his hometown of Lowell, MA. To say he still gets love from fight fans would be a massive understatement. A movie was made about his career in 2010 and the upcoming sequel will feature his epic trilogy with Gatti. Today, he is part owner of a gym, part owner of an outdoor hockey rink and he stays active as a trainer in the Lowell boxing scene.
His final record: 38-13 (27KO's)
The Friday Night Fight Flashback you just enjoyed was written by self-proclaimed boxing junkie David McLeod, exclusively for KO Digest. Each week, David will flashback to a memorable fight in boxing history!