On this day in 2002, one of the most celebrated slugfests of this century took place at the Monhegan Sun Casino when Micky Ward outlasted Arturo Gatti by Round 10 majority decision. Ward and Gatti were regular participants in Fight of the Year classics during this era. Their first and third meetings were Fights of the Year in 2002 and 2003. Their second fight would have won that distinction in most years.
The first fight between Gatti and Ward featured what many consider the greatest round in boxing history. Serious boxing fans of this generation will smile and nod knowingly at the mere mention of “Round 9.”
Both the action and momentum swings of that round strain credulity, even re-watching them again for another countless time, over a decade later. It is simply astonishing that both Gatti and Ward were able to absorb each others abuse and continue to dish out.
Ward dropped Gatti with a crushing lead hook beneath the rib cage early into the round. It was astonishing that Gatti was able to beat the count and for seconds after the fight was waved back in, Gatti was struggling merely to remain upright as Ward aggressively hammered away at him.
Then, with half the round still remaining, Ward’s ability to attack seemed to flag. Suddenly Gatti shifted to the offensive and nearly had Ward out of the fight. The Pride of Lowell had to gamely dig deep into himself to weather the storm, but on the other end of the assault, he was once again able to grab control of the fight and pound away at Gatti inside the closing minute. Gatti hung in and even managed a small rally inside the round’s final 10 seconds.
Ward was essentially a journeyman/fringe contender, but his rivalry with Gatti helped cement his reputation as one of the gutsiest and most exciting ring warriors of his generation. Although the fights with Gatti were not featured in the Mark Wahlberg biopic on Ward, it’s doubtful that movie would have been made if not for the trilogy.
For Gatti, the series helped push a borderline Hall of Fame career over the top. He was inducted into Canastota in 2013.
Also on this date, in 1973, Marvin Hagler made his professional debut. He would be one of the most avoided fighters in the sport during that 1970s, but would become one of the sport’s greatest stars in the 1980s.