By Mark Elezaj
Nowadays the word “legendary” is thrown around for almost everyone and everything. You hear the fans saying things like “He’s a legendary performer” or “wow that was a legendary fight” and in all reality, they’re really just mediocre. There are times when we anticipate “Mega Fights” and as we watch these fights unfold, for example the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight, they never live up to the hype and it leaves us, the fight fans, very angry wanting more.
That was not the case on May 18, 2002. On that date, we witnessed a fight that will never be forgotten. On that day we witnessed the Fight Of The Year between Arturo “Thunder” Gatti and “Irish” Mickey Ward. These two warriors left it all in the ring that night, quickly forming a friendship that would never be broken. Gatti-Ward will forever be cemented as Legendary in the history books of boxing.
In the first two rounds of the fight, Gatti was able to control the pace playing the role of the boxer, beating Ward, who was known as a slugger, to the punch. Gatti threw quick combinations while Ward stood there with his guard high, taking the shots as they came in. Gatti continued to outwork him early while Ward somehow managed to land body shots in spots throughout the onslaught of combinations coming from Gatti.
Round three saw a slight change in the action. Ward was now willing to stand there and trade shots with Arturo. Gatti was still the sharper fighter, landing the crisper shots but Ward was getting to the body more, moving into range easier than the previous two rounds. Ward now became the the aggressor, stalking Gatti while letting both hands go and landing hard shots to the body.
In Round four, while continuing to take shots from Gatti in the opening moments, Ward landed a right hand that rocked Gatti’s head to the side. Gatti returned fire with a powerful combination. Ward, standing his ground went back to work on the body while landing left hooks to Gatti’s jaw. Gatti was not as mobile as in the earlier rounds, standing still a lot more, while Ward continued to stalk and attack, landing short punches to the head and hard punches to the body. Gatti was able to withstand the punches and managed to back Ward off by throwing more combinations, landing strong left hooks and following up by right hands to the head of Ward.
The bell sounded and Round five was under way. Ward continued to stalk Gatti who was now moving forward and brawling with combinations of his own. Gatti continued to let his hands go as well and Ward absorbed them while moving forward and attacking, landing his left hook to the head and then the body. Gatti, who now looked tired and hurt, came back with hard punches keeping Ward at bay.
With about a minute left, Ward landed lefts and rights upstairs. Gatti responded with a flurry in an attempt to win the round. Then, with 20 seconds left, Ward caught Gatti with a fast combination to the head and rocked him, sending him up against the ropes.
Ward jumped on Gatti, attacking him and landing at will, pushing his head back with hard uppercuts while also digging strong hooks to the body. Gatti’s right eye was now bleeding and he was dazed from the relentless combinations thrown by Ward.
Rounds six and seven, you saw Gatti go back to boxing, working off of his jab and avoiding Ward. But somehow Ward was still landing punches although he was being outboxed. Gatti continued to box well, winning both rounds.
Round 8, finally realized the range he needed to get to Gatti, and knowing that he was behind on points, Ward continued to stalk his opponent was now letting his hands go. Gatti continued to slip and move, boxing his way around the ring and then with about 45 seconds left, Ward began to land to the body and head. Gatti was tired and Ward continued to attack him, rocking him with short right hands and finally landing a left-right-left combination that put Gatti on the ropes. As the round ended, Jim Lampley screamed “Oh my god, Oh my goodness! What a fight!”
Round nine had Ward came out and jumping on an injured Gatti. Ward threw his left hook, first to the head and then the body, landing with ease. Gatti tried to move, but Ward was constantly putting pressure on him, throwing punches in bunches.
Then, 13 seconds into the round, Ward landed a hard combination and Gatti staggered back dropping to his knee.
“This is it,” Emmanuel Steward said. “He’s not going to recover; it’s not like a head punch.”
Merchant: “He may not be able to recover.”
But Gatti did recover and made it to his feet before the 10 count.
Ward was back on the move, throwing hard punches to Gatti’s head. Ward continued to land strong hooks to the head and body and getting Gatti was a beaten man. But then, Gatti began to return fire, landing with both hands to the head and body causing Ward to back off just a little bit.
Gatti now has Ward against the ropes, letting both hands fly. Ward waved Gatti in ard returned fire, landing punches of his own. Gatti returned fire until Ward caught him as he came forward with a right hand. Ward began to let his left hook go, digging to Gatti’s body and head, setting up a hard uppercut- hook combination that landed Gatti resounded and threw punches back but Ward landed the harder shots, putting Gatti back up against ropes in pain.
Jim Lampley saying “Stop it, Frank you can stop it at any time” while Emmanuel Steward was saying “This should be the round of the century!” sums up the action of the round perfectly. It was an all and out war.
Round ten was a much slower round. Gatti went back to boxing, using his jab and speed to keep Ward away easily winning the round. The judges gave the victory to Ward by a very close decision, but in the end it didn’t matter who won or lost, all that mattered was that we witnessed one of the greatest fights in the history of the sport. We witnessed two warriors leaving it all in the ring. We witnessed a true classic. We witnessed Gatti Ward!!
~The Fighting Voice~