Fight of the Day: Arturo Gatti vs Mickey – May 18, 2002.

Both men had faced losses, both men had tasted the canvas; and neither men were purist boxers. But both men were natural fighters. They both had qualities of a true warrior who desired to go out on their shield. The two men shared the ring three times but potentially their first bout was the best showing.

Both men were proven warriors going into the bout. Gatti had incredible fights with Wilson Rodriguez, Gabriel Ruelas and Ivan Robinson, and Ward had recently been involved with the 2001 Fight of the Year against Emanuel Augustus.

The bout kicked off with Gatti boxing sublimely. Rarely seen in the trilogy, we witness some smooth transitions from jabs to straight crosses landing on the hittable Ward. Ward suffered a cut from a sharp cross across his right eye. The second round was built upon by Gatti by more slick boxing.

Round 3 saw a slight shift in the action in terms of what Ward was willing to accept without reprisal. Gatti was still the sharper fighter, landing well with both hands, but Ward was getting to the body more. He was slipping to the inside of the jab to land down with some great shunting body punches.

Gatti stuck behind the jab early in the 4th but fell victim to a fully cocked right hand that wobbled him severely. Gatti reloaded shortly but now Ward tasted the initiative and the blood; landing more tight hooks upstairs and downstairs.

Gatti was suddenly standing still a lot more than he had in previous rounds, and Ward was making the most of it, as both men spun and turned each other. Ward continued to land short, chopping punches to the head and hard shots to the body, while Gatti backed him off with hard combinations and powerful left hooks and right hands to the head.

Perhaps frustrated and the newfound success of Ward, Gatti landed a low blow which crumpled Ward. The ref deducted one point and the round ended. Both men now wore heavy facial damage.

Round 5 and the heat was cranked up further. Ward continued to stalk Gatti whilst Gatti worked in bursts of energy. Rather than sticking and moving, he would bounce in for a scrap and then bounce out of range. Ward pursued him despite the hard shots he was taking. Ward landed more rib mashing left hooks which were followed with more concussive head shots. With back and forth hooks, Ward detonated a flash of brutalism which had Gatti in dire straits against the ropes.

Suddenly, Gatti’s right eye was bleeding, and he was stumbling from one combination straight into the next. Utterly rag dolled, the round ended to save him from going down.

Rounds 6 and 7 saw Gatti emulated the loftier realms of boxing- jabbing and moving to negate the hyper aggression of Ward. Wards, short hooks simply could not reach Gatti in time before flicking jabs caught him on the chin.

Round 8 saw Ward finally realised that he was behind on points. Ward began to throw with more volume and punches when Gatti punched, so that his out boxing was reduced. Then, with 45 seconds left, Ward began to land again to the body and head with one and two punches at a time. Gatti was suddenly looking like a very tired man who move gracefully around the ring anymore. Ward rocked him with a short right hand that sent him stumbling back across the ring. Ward followed and landed a left-right-left combination that forced Gatti to the ropes. The left to the body noticeably bruised him Gatti’s rib cage.

Ward came out fast, swarming Gatti. Cutting off the ring with hands and feet, Gatti had nowhere to turn that to his opponents menacing face. Ward landed the tried and tested Left to the head and left to the body. This decimated Gatti and made him drop to one knee. Not just off balance or tactical, this knockdown was clearly one brought about by extreme pain.

When he returned to his feet Ward returned to pounding the hurt Gatti. Clutching at his side, Gatti’s head was completely exposed and he suffered thumping hooks and crosses. The damage that man had received for the majority of the round and to continue is otherworldly.

But….He was not out and as Ward began to tire, Gatti began to return fire, throwing nearly his entire body into brutal hooks, landing with both fists to the head and body. Ward was catching these punches flush.

From there, Ward began to let his left hook fly, digging to Gatti’s body and head, which in turn set Ward up for another hard uppercut-hook combination that landed flush.

Gatti threw in return, but it was Ward who landed the hard combinations, once more putting Gatti on his heels and hurting him. He sagged against the ropes, and Ward poured it on, throwing both fists in a left-right pattern that never seemed to stop unless he decided to attack the body again.

Gatti held on to the end of the round, even blasting Ward in the last 10 seconds of the round.

The last round Gatti sensibly went back to boxing. Ward, now himself gassed did not have enough left in the tank to attempt another assault, leaving the decision firmly in the hands of the judges.

Ward got the nod in a split decision, but that night, Boxing won.

After two more breath taking fights, both boxers were taken to the hospital and set one bed apart, separated by only a curtain. Gatti asked, “Mick, you okay?”

The two men had annihilated each other but from the last bell they became best friends. The two were inseparable until Gatti’s tragic death in 2009.

The three Ward-Gatti fights have become boxing folklore. It is mentioned in the same sentences such as Ali-Frazier, Barrera-Morales, Hagler-Hearns and will remain imprinted on fans minds forever.

More Fight of the Days >

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