Who knows, if boxing history had turned out differently, Micky Ward and Emanuel Augustus might have given us the greatest 140-pound rivalry of the 2000s – not Ward and Arturo Gatti. For as special, as epic, as incredible as the one and only fight Ward and Augustus had is, it’s a wonder they didn’t do it again the way Ward and Gatti did.
It was on this day back in 2001 when “Irish” Micky Ward and “The Drunken Master” Emanuel Augustus met on ESPN’s ‘Friday Night Fights,’ and what a fight the two men with misleadingly less than impressive records engaged in. It was so good, Teddy Atlas, who was calling the fight, implored viewing fans to call up their friends and explain to them why they had to tune in.
Augustus, the man Floyd Mayweather still says, gave him the single hardest fight of his entire, 50-0 pro career, grew up with the surname Burton, changing it in 2001. Often taking fights on short notice and not really being looked after by his team, Augustus had a 24-17-4 record upon entering the ring with Ward. But Augustus was not too often stopped – with only Jesus Chavez, Mayweather, and Allan Vester managing it (Augustus also being DQ’d in his fight with Stephen Smith).
And Augustus had rumbled with the best – Mayweather, Ivan Robinson, Hiosbelys Hurtado, Jon Thaxton, John John Molina, and others. And Augustus had a decent amount of time to get ready for Ward.
Ward, who had a 35-10 ledger upon stepping into the ring in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire to slug it out with Augustus, had also faced the best. Also like Augustus, Ward had rarely been stopped; just once in fact, on cuts by Vince Phillips. Among the names Ward fought: Harold Brazier, Charles Murray, Zab Judah, Shea Neary. Like Augustus, Ward was ready for a war on the evening of July 13, 2001.
The heat was intense from the off, with Ward and Augustus doing a good deal of their fighting in just a small section of the ring. Augustus was often fighting whilst on the ropes, the two men on pretty much even terms. Augustus engaged in his familiar fun and games, showboating and pulling faces. Ward was all business. “Emanuel Augustus was as tough as Arturo Gatti,” Ward would later say, often repeating this after the fight.
The battle raged and raged, the two slinging an astonishing amount of punches. Ward’s savage body attack failed to stop Augustus, Augustus was unable to dent Ward’s chin. Augustus targeted the midsection himself, most notably in the 7th, when he seemed to hurt Ward. At a recent dinner show with fans in Newcastle, Ward stated that the shot Augustus nailed him within that 7th round was the hardest he was ever belted to the body in his whole career.
Ward finally broke through in the ninth round, decking the tougher than tough Augustus with a sickening left hand to the liver. Augustus fell to his knees, in great pain. Amazingly, upon getting up, Augustus took the fight right back to Ward! Going into the tenth and final session, these two tired but driven warriors had between them unloaded over 2,000 punches! They battled to the end, with the fans screaming both men on. It was surprisingly wide on two of the three cards – with Ward winning a UD: 98-90, 96-91, and a perhaps more accurate 96-94. Atlas had the fight a draw on his unofficial card.
Again, it’s a shame these two never fought a rematch. Instead, Ward went into his historic fights with Gatti, while Augustus went into a further 30-plus bouts, retiring in 2011. Augustus was shot in the head in October of 2014. This one of a kind fighter survived yet is today suffering from memory problems and other issues. Fight fans who saw Augustus at his best will never forget him.