Gatti v Ward – Warrior v Warrior By Simon Graham
What can be written about the Gatti-Ward trilogy that hasn’t been already? There are not enough adjectives or clichés available to describe their fights, fight one, in particular, is amongst the greatest fights of all time, a fight that would be voted Fight of the Year, decade and century by magazines, pundits and fans alike, oh and round nine alone had its share of accolades too.
Irish Mickey Ward and Arturo Gatti had been in epic battles throughout most of their respective careers before they met for the first time, they would share 30 non-title rounds over a 13-month period. Ward was regarded as just a journeyman with a respectable record his only attempt at a world title had ended in defeat, known for his relentless pursuit of his opponents taking many shots to land his own, Ward could be losing a fight only to win with his signature powerful body shots.
Gatti on the flip side was a world champion in two weight classes, an aggressive, all-action fighter, who could brawl at close quarters and box supremely on the outside. known for his heart and bravery in the ring, he also carried formidable punching power.
Gatti v Ward 1 took place May 18, 2002, everyone at ringside was anticipating a great match up what they got was a classic, a throwback to the golden age of boxing. From the opening bell, Gatti’s tactics would be to keep Ward on the outside using blinding speed and combinations, Ward adopting his usual marauding style trying to lure his opponent into a brawl, within the first 2 minutes Gatti opened a cut on Ward’s eye that would continue to bleed for the entirety of the fight. Round 2 had Gatti catching Ward with lead hooks, uppercuts and superb combinations while constantly moving out of range of the Irish mans attempted counters, Ward would occasionally land pot shots when the 2 fighters came in at close quarters but Gatti was in blistering form.
Buoyed by the ease in which he could catch Ward, Gatti took the centre ring for the 3rd round bouncing thunderous power shots off the body and head of his opponent, this, of course, played straight into the hands of Ward who for the final minute of the round began to successfully land his own power shots, targeting the body of Gatti. Ward would lead hook to the head of Gatti allowing him to follow up with his trademark left hook to the body, finally, Ward had pulled his rival into the battle he wanted.
The Start of round 4 saw Gatti once more up on his toes keeping Ward at range however as the round progressed a familiar routine would ensue for the rest of the fight, first one fighter would take control with a burst of power punching only to have the other fighter take their turn, with 30 seconds to go Ward dropped to the canvas after a low blow, a pivotal moment that would prove decisive at the end of the fight. By Round 8 Gatti had a slight lead on the scorecards, just like the previous rounds he boxed on the outside occasionally stepping in to engage Ward at close quarters, the last 30 seconds Ward rallied to end the round on top trapping Gatti on the ropes loading up with hard shots to the head and body, shaken Gatti headed back to his corner.
Ward quickly got back to work at the start of round 9 picking up where he left off from the previous round, a thunderous left hook to the body of Gatti dropped him to his knees, clearly in agony and sickened by the blow he Struggled to get to his feet, barely up by the count of 9, he hardly had time to recover before Ward swarmed in smashing in more body blows, with 2 minutes 30 still left in the round things looked bleak for Gatti as his foe went looking for the finish.
Refusing to go down Gatti was pummelled from one side of the ring to the other, but like so many Warriors that enter the ring, Gatti dug in planted his feet firmly in the centre of the ring and fired back with 6, 7- 8 punch combinations, fans ringside on their feet cheering on their heroes totally in awe at the spectacle unfolding in front of them.
Entering the last minute of the round Ward battered, bruised and bloodied beat a defiant glove against his chest and drove Gatti back to the ropes, smashing in power shots Ward went for the stoppage however the bell would bring the brutality of round 9 to an end. Neither man could be separated during round 10 sending the fight to the scorecards, Ward would win on a Split decision the Low blow from round 4 and the 9th round knockdown swaying it in his favour after the first judge gave the fight a draw.
Their trilogy was filled with drama, blood, sweat and tears there were broken bones, cuts and exhaustion but they had earned each other’s mutual respect, two honest fighters who would go on to be very close friends after their trilogy, Ward ironically would be Gatti’s trainer for his last fight in 2007. “When Arturo died, a part of me died too” Mickey Ward A true Warrior of the ring and another Legend who passed on way before his time.