Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward – How Does The First Of Their Epic Fights Hold Up 20 Years On?

Some fights are only truly appreciated years after they took place. Other fights are instantly recognized as special; in some cases, super-special.

While in the case of some fights, both things happen. It’s now (on May 18) been 20 years since Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, no-fuss, grassroots, born to fight warriors both, went to war for the first of three legendary fights.

Ward defeated Gatti at The Mohegan Sun Arena in Montville, Connecticut, via majority decision, and the fight, indeed the war, was instant as far as being recognized as something special. Yet, in the case of this fight and its following two sequels, the legend has grown and grown. Looked at by some as the last great boxing trilogy (we hope not, always greedy for more as we are), Gatti-Ward has taken heaps of additional respect, adulation, and celebration in the years after its conclusion.

Due in some part to the sad and shocking (and unsolved) death of Gatti, this rivalry sucked up an entire universe of mad love. Fans argue how boxing never got, and never will get, any better. The 30 rounds of sheer, skilled violence Ward and Gatti gave us took us someplace, and those 30 rounds take us to another place today. How does the first battle Gatti and Ward engaged in hold up 20 years on? The fight and its reputation are in magnificent shape today, and as the years go by, the legend will, quite deservedly, continue to grow.

The fight had no title on the line, and it threw together two men who were both seen at the time as having gone as far as they were capable of going in the sport, with each fighter laying everything he had on the line in the ring, most of it in the middle of the squared circle. And it was the super fight of super fights. Blood, broken bones, arms too sore to even lift, let alone carry on slinging out punches, and a willingness to leave the ring in a wholly different physical state to the condition they entered the ring. The fight had it all, and then the ninth round – THE greatest, most awe-inspiring round of boxing ever seen – took Ward W10 Gatti into another dimension.

All these years later, the fight is one of those small but big episodes in sport, indeed in life, one that we fans take a special time-out to sit and rejoice in all over again. No one can just sit and casually watch the Ward-Gatti fight (or fights) – this warfare has to be given the appropriate combination of time, place, and moment. And respect. The fight or fights have to be adequately and appropriately celebrated. And they are.

Twenty years after the late great Emanuel Steward told us how that ninth round should be “the round of the century,” the fight that Ward won over Gatti has got better and better. It was an instant hit, yet Gatti-Ward has since gone multi-platinum. Some fights, we never, ever get tired of. In fact, it’s just the opposite: Gatti-Ward is so damn special it can give even the most down and dejected soul a monstrous boost.

How about you? What does this fight (or fights) do for you? Where does the stuff Gatti and Ward displayed 20 years ago take you?