Best I Faced: Micky Ward
“Irish” Micky Ward was a blood and guts warrior who thrilled audiences with his fan-friendly style long before he gained cult status in the early 2000s for his classic trilogy with friendly rival Arturo Gatti.
Ward was born in the working-class industrial town of Lowell, Massachusetts on Oct. 4, 1965. As a youngster he played various sports but was drawn to boxing as a six-year-old when he watched half-brother Dicky Eklund box at the Golden Gloves.
After taking up the sport himself, Ward won three New England Golden Gloves titles and exited the unpaid ranks with a record of 40-10 (approximate) before turning professional in 1985.
The blue-collar fighter won his first 14 bouts before suffering his first setback to Edwin Curet (SD 10). From there Ward’s form became patchy and persistent hand injuries were a factor in a string of disappointing defeats. In 1991 he stepped away from the sport with a middling record of 21-7.
“I felt like I couldn’t get a break so I got away from boxing,” Ward told The Ring. “But I knew that I had a lot more left and didn’t want to go out that way.
“I came back because I wanted to and did it on my terms and that’s why I succeeded.”
Ward returned in 1994 and shook off the ring rust before taking on unbeaten contender Louis Veader. Trailing on the scorecards, the famed body-puncher scored a rousing ninth-round stoppage win that proved a turning point in his hard-luck career.
“Veader was 31-0, a good, fast, slick fighter,” he said. “Beating him opened up doors for me.”
After besting Veader in a rematch, Ward secured a fight against IBF 140-pound titleholder Vince Phillips. The challenge proved too much for him and he was stopped – for the only time in his near 20-year career – on cuts in three rounds.
After losing to Zab Judah, Ward rebounded well and was involved in several exciting scraps against Reggie Green (TKO 10), Shea Neary (TKO 8), Antonio Diaz (L UD 10) and Emmanuel Augustus (UD 10).
In May 2002 the curtain rose on the Ward-Gatti trilogy and the pair would become inextricably linked. Ward won the first fight but lost the second and third.
“I couldn’t have had a better partner,” Ward said of the man he shared 30 rounds with. “Our styles were perfect for each other.
“The first fight, he fought my fight. In the second fight, he stayed on his legs. I knew the first fight was special but it didn’t really hit me until after the third fight. I didn’t know it would be so popular, but people are still talking about it.”
With nothing left to achieve Ward retired with a record of 38-13, 27 KOs. He remained involved in boxing and even trained Gatti for a short period of time.
“I was honored to be in the ring with Arturo,” he said proudly. “I fought him three times, walked him into the ring, trained him and he was a great friend.”
Ward took part in The Ring Fight of the Year three times: 2001 (Augustus), 2002 (Ward I) and 2003 (Ward III).
In 2010 his life was depicted in the critically acclaimed movie The Fighter . Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams, the film won two Oscars (Bale for Best Support Actor and Melissa Leo for Best Supporting Actress).
Ward, now 53, is married and has a daughter. He regularly attends amateur and professional shows in New England. He also makes appearances in local advertisements and commercials.
He graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he fought in 10 key categories.
Zab Judah: Zab had a good, stiff jab and because he was a lefty it was awkward for me and tough to hit him. Charles Murray had a great jab too.
Charles Murray: I had trouble hitting him because he was tall, long and had a great defense. Harold Brazier was very good defensively and good offensively as well. He beat Roger Mayweather for the world title, but they robbed him.
Judah: Again, Zab Judah. He was always fast but at 19, when I fought him, he was exceptionally fast. Charles Murray a close second.
Arturo Gatti: I wasn’t looking at their feet (laughs). Arturo Gatti, when he was moving, had the best footwork. He knew how to work the whole ring. A lot of times he stood and banged, but when he was on his toes and moving around, he had great footwork because his legs were so strong.
Gatti: Definitely Arturo Gatti. I put him down twice, once to the head. He was just so tough. Emanuel Augustus had a great chin too. He could hit hard and was the most awkward guy to fight.
Brazier: I have to go back to when I was younger. Harold Brazier was a veteran, probably 35 (he was 34) when we fought, but it was like fighting a 25-year-old. He could really fight, and he was so smart in the ring. Arturo and Zab were smart too.
Gatti: I fought a lot of guys who were strong but if I had to pick one – Arturo. He had a good left hook. Arturo put everything into his punches, never worried about getting hit back. He didn’t care.
Gatti: Arturo could really punch. I did fight a lot of guys earlier in my career who could punch, but they never went anywhere.
Judah: As he got older, he stood and fought more. He moved (up) in weight, but between 19 and 21, his skills were very, very good. He had some pop too. Arturo had good skills when he boxed.
Judah: So tough. I can’t pick between Arturo and Zab. Arturo was fast, punched hard and was good defensively when he wanted to be. Zab had crazy speed and he could punch. If I had to pick, I’d go Zab because of his speed. Arturo was fast but not as fast as Zab.
Bob Trieger helped co-ordinate this feature. The Ring appreciates his assistance.
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