Sharkie’s Machine

The Fight of the Century!
Featuring Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward

By Frank Gonzalez: May 19th, 2002: Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville Ct. two of the most exciting fighters of this era went to war. It was the kind of fight people have dreamed about for some time. Arturo “Thunder” Gatti (34-5-0-28 KO’s) took on “Irish” Mickey Ward (37-11-0-27 KO’s) in what would prove that dreams do come true. This fight was everything we dreamed it would be; brutal, bloody and chock full of heart and soul who are honest fighters.

The new Arturo Gatti, now trained by Buddy McGirt, was on display. We first saw the new Gatti in his last fight where he calmly and systematically destroyed Terronn Millet, a former champion, doing it with Boxing skills, and patient aggression. Under McGirt’s guidance, Gatti seems reborn. He has become a boxer again, instead of a brawler. Patience and power are his Rx for success.

If you’ve followed Gatti’s career, you might recall when he used to block with his face. He’d become a bloody mess in no time, but would come back with power and determination and if not win, at least give a great show. It is the consistency of his valiant performances that makes Gatti a fan favorite. A gentleman outside the ring and an animal inside it, he is everything that’s right about Boxing. He does not win all his fights, but he always comes to fight and always wins more fans. How could you like Boxing and not love Arturo Gatti? He is a blue-collar warrior. Not the best, but one of the pound for pound bravest fighters of this era. He might lose by technical knockout due to cuts and blood, as he’s prone to bleed, but would never quit. He’s the fighter you always know is going to go toe to toe with whoever he fights.

I’ve seen many of his fights, all were wars, except for the Joey Gamache and Oscar De La Hoya fights, which I thought were mismatches, one in Gatti’s favor, the other not.

During an interview on Friday Night Fights, Arturo Gatti said of Mickey Ward, “He is me. He’s everything I am. He’s a true warrior and I have nothing but respect for him.” Mickey Ward has been a professional fighter for 17 years now and he is still a Junior Welterweight after all those years. When asked why he never moved up in weight like most fighters do, he said it was a sign of laziness to move up in weight because it meant that you didn’t want to work as hard anymore.

Mickey Ward is a hard worker, a blue-collar fighter from Lowell Mass. He is famous for his vicious body punching. Ward is a fighter that you can never count out, he, like Gatti, has no quit in him. He’s been in tough fights where he was losing most of the rounds and suddenly, Boom! He scores that big left hook to the body and down goes his opponent. Win or lose, his fights are always exciting battles.

In Ward’s last fight, against Jesse James Leija, another veteran workhorse, he ended up on the wrong end of the wrong decision. Early in that fight, he opened a cut on Leija’s eye with a punch. The referee called it a head butt. A few rounds later the fight was stopped due to that same cut. Since it was ruled a butt and not a punch, the scorecards left Ward the loser of a fight that many felt, technically, he had won. Leija did win more of the rounds in what amounted to a five rounder, employing an urgency that somehow suggested he knew the fight would be stopped early.

For Jesse James Leija, the ‘gift’ win over Ward was sort of poetic justice, after the Camacho affair in Coney Island a year earlier where Camacho quit after sustaining a small cut above his eye. That fight went to the scorecards with some controversy about the timing of the decision to stop the fight by TKO or go to the scorecards. The Judge’s mysteriously called Camacho the winner. That ruling was later over turned by the NYSAC and deemed a No Contest. Camacho refused a rematch with Jesse and spared himself what would more than likely have resulted in a win for Leija. And although this is all relevant, it’s actually another can of worms.

In the Leija fight, Ward showed signs of a man at the sunset of his career, with the desperate Leija convincingly winning three of the five rounds they fought. But don’t forget one thing; Ward is usually a slow starter who finishes strong. Maybe he just didn’t get his chance in the short match with Leija.

As for Gatti, after the beating he put on Millet, he looked like an older fighter who made a deal with the Devil to gain a few years of his youth back. He looks in excellent shape and his confidence is apparent. According to many Internet Boxing sites, Gatti was the favorite to win over Ward.

* * *

The Fight

Ward lands the first punch, a left hook to the head. Gatti came on strong to start the fight, moving in and out with combinations, scoring at will against Ward, who seemed a step behind Arturo. This continued into the second round, with Ward only occasionally scoring and Gatti getting the better of the exchanges. After the second round, it looked as though Gatti would dominate Ward and win but the drama continued to shift momentum as the third round began and Ward started making adjustments and getting closer to Gatti, drawing him into a brawl and neutralizing Gatti’s superior Boxing skills. Frank Cappuccino, the referee, warns Gatti about low blows at the end of the third round.

Ward charges Gatti in the fourth but Arturo turns him away like a Matador evading a wild bull. Ward rocks Gatti with a right hand, followed by head and body combinations. Gatti was hurt but comes back with a barrage of punches rocking Ward. The audience is enraptured by what looks like a history making fight. Gatti blasts a low punch into Wards groin sending him down in pain. The ref calls it a slip and takes a point from Gatti for the foul. There was about 15 seconds on the clock and Cappuccino should have called a time-out, but fails to do so and the round ends, denying Ward the five minutes for recovery. Now Ward had only the one minute between rounds to do so. Between the round, Ward could be heard telling his corner, “I’m ready, let’s go!”

Gatti wails on Ward, who hits back less frequently, still hurting from the low blow. A moment later, Ward recoups and cuts the ring off, forcing Gatti to brawl. Ward was now dictating the style of the fight. Gatti comes on tough, but Ward finishes impressively with a flurry of shots to the head then the body. Gatti is hurt. Ward holds back a big punch as the bell sounds to end the round.

In the sixth, Gatti bombs Ward, who keeps coming forward in workman like fashion, but Gatti wins the round with authority. McGirt tells Gatti during the break, “You got this fight, this is for all the marbles, Box!”

In the seventh, Gatti starts out boxing effectively, dominating Ward, who looked sluggish. After the round, McGirt tells Gatti, “He don’t want to fight no more, he’s just looking for one big shot.” Ward, being attended by his corner is told by his trainer Dick Eklund, “Bang the shit out of him! Don’t be a punching bag. I’m not going to let this go like this!”

As the eighth round started, the announcers were singing the praises of Gatti who boxed and scored in spots against Ward. Later in the round, Ward comes on strong but Gatti does too, reopening the cut on Ward’s eye. Blood spurts out. Ward attacks Gatti with newfound life, hitting him with punishing blows until the bell rings. Ward steals the round. Gatti staggers to his corner. In Ward’s corner his trainer says, “I think you got him going!”

As the ninth round starts, Ward still smells blood from the last round and rushes in to finish off the hurt Gatti and lands his trademark left hook to the body. Gatti winces in pain and falls to a knee. The ref gives him a fast count and Gatti gets up in the nick of time. He is hurt, but he is no quitter. Ward tries to finish him off but runs out of steam after a while and then, Gatti comes back again, throwing punches and backing Ward up.

The crowd was on their feet, screaming. This was one of the most dramatic rounds of Boxing I’ve ever witnessed. At 1:33 of the ninth round, Gatti is back on the attack. Ward, up against the ropes says, “C’mon!” and pounds his body in a gesture of ‘shows me what you got.’ Gatti keeps punching; Ward keeps blocking and hanging on. Finally, Ward becomes the aggressor again and pounds Gatti, who looks out on his feet. For a moment it seemed the fight might be stopped and Ward would win by TKO, but Cappuccino, to his credit perhaps, allowed the fight to continue. With only seconds left in the round, Gatti again comes back to life and starts throwing punches. Both guys looked dead on their feet. Gatti had survived the round, so did Ward.

McGirt tells Gatti, “I’m not gonna let you take this much punishment! Look at me…tell me something…”

The bell rings twice. “The fight is being stopped!” Jim Lampley announces. Ward raises his arms in victory. Both fighters approach the center of the ring. Cappuccino says, “The fight ain’t over!” Then the fight resumed for the tenth and final round. People rush back into their seats.

Gatti comes on strong, giving all he has left, Ward looks hurt and fatigued but hangs tough. A slugfest ensues and both fighters score big, swinging until the final bell rings, the fighters embrace. It’s over. Gatti walks slowly and painfully to his corner as does Ward on the opposite side. Both waited humbly for the Judge’s decision to be announced.

The Judge’s scores read as follows:

Richard Flarety of Massachusetts – 94-93 For Ward

Frank Lombardi of Connecticut – 94-94 Even

Steve Weisfeld of New Jersey – 95-93 For Ward

HBO’s Harold Lederman scored it – 94-94 Even

My score was 95-94 for Gatti who I felt won the last round in a fight I had even going in to the 10th round.

Ward had won by Majority Decision. I had to wonder whether Judge Flarety’s score wasn’t biased since Ward, like himself is from Massachusetts. I don’t know how Weisfeld had Ward ahead by two points, but then Weisfeld’s scores have often been mysterious to me in the past. But I am not complaining. In my opinion, a Draw would have been justice since both guys won the fight in my opinion. Ward had the only knockdown and Gatti lost a point in the fourth round, which had my card balanced after nine rounds.

Ward raised his arms in victory and Gatti looked stunned. Both fighters were reverent of each other. During the post fight interview, both praised each other’s heart and showed lots of respect and mutual admiration. It was a beautiful thing. It was a shame that someone had to lose this fight.

Gatti said to Ward, “This was a great fight, I think we should do it again.” Ward didn’t look so enthusiastic about a rematch saying, “We’ll talk about it and see what happens.”

Although I scored Gatti the winner, there’s no way I would say Ward lost. Neither lost, both won. Everybody won, the fans, the fighters and HBO. A legendary fight like this will be the measuring stick for exciting Boxing matches for a long, long time.

In closing, I just want to say, “Thank you!” to Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward for a great fight that will live in my memory for as long as I have my wits.

* * *

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Ward Wins Fight In The Phone Booth

By Ed Ludwig

20.05 - This past Saturday all boxing fans were treated to a great fight we all wanted to see for sometime and no one was disappointed. Micky Ward (38-11 27 KO’s) a ring veteran of seventeen years scored the biggest victory of his career by winning a majority decision over Arturo Gatti (34-6 28 KO’s). Despite suffering a cut in the corner of his right eye in the first round Ward showed the heart he is known for and prevailed in the end.

Gatti won the first three rounds and in the fourth he was deducted a point for a low blow. It was the turning point in the fight as the momentum started to shift and Ward began to press the attack and the fifth round he kept the pressure on by landing flurries of punches and cutting Gatti’s eye. Both fighters stood toe to toe and landed power shot after power shot. Neither fighter is known for using a jab and their styles have made them two of the most popular and exciting boxers over the years.

It was a see saw battle throughout and difficult to score. Round nine looked as if it would be the end as Ward dropped Gatti with a body shot. At the count of nine Gatti rose to his feet and it looked like he was getting ready to go down again as Ward pummelled him into the ropes. He survived an amazing ninth round that has to be considered one of the all time best and in the tenth Gatti went for broke and gave Ward everything he could muster up.

After the final bell in round ten Ward’s hand was raised in victory. The fight was so close that a decision for either fighter would not be disputed. For Micky Ward this was the fight of his life and the biggest win of his career. With this victory he has erased any doubts about his ability to fight at age thirty-six. Lets hope that we get to see these two gladiators go at it again and get the money they both deserve.

What can be said about Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti that hasn’t been said already? We all should feel blessed to see two great men give it everything each time out. I spoke briefly with Jerry Colton of “Team Ward” this morning and he said both Ward and Gatti spent the night at a local hospital for precautionary measures. Both were slightly dehydrated but otherwise okay. Thanks Micky and Arturo. You are what boxing is all about. Skills, Brains and Guts!



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