On this day in 2002, beloved fighters Arturo Gatti & Micky Ward brought us the first of an amazing trilogy, the greatest in recent memory and one that will be remembered by fans forever.

The tale of the tape showed a level match up in terms of height, reach, and weight but Gatti 6 years Ward’s junior.

Although it was only May, many predicted the fight to challenge for Fight of the Year with both men known for trading shots and fighting toe to toe. Ward had won the award the previous year in a tremendous fight against Emanuel Burton and Gatti too, 4 years earlier in 1997 against Ivan Robinson.

The fight started quickly and despite Ward pressing the action, Gatti settled quickly into his rhythm, firing off clever combinations opening a bad cut over the right eye of Ward. It was clear early on that Ward was struggling with Gatti’s superior movement, footwork, and speed which was the plan for Buddy McGirt’s man. In the 3rd, Ward continued to try and close the distance and look for that signature left hook to the body to slow Gatti down. The final minute of the round turned into a slugfest with both men standing firm and trading hefty blows.

Gatti, having won the opening 3 rounds undid all his good work in the 4th after landing a left hook below the beltline which sent Ward to the canvas, costing him a point and the round. The tide was beginning to turn and despite Gatti continuing to land beautiful shots, Ward’s relentless pressure began to tell, landing cute combinations of his own and opening a cut over Gatti’s eye this time. The crowd by now were on their feet in amazement, they could sense this was going down as an all-time classic.

The mid rounds produced more of the same, Gatti boxing and Ward pressing, a truly magnificent spectacle. Lederman’s scorecard having Gatti slightly ahead by the end of the 8th round.

Within 15 seconds of the 9th round, Ward connected with a brutal body shot which forced Gatti to take a knee and looked in serious trouble. Beating the count, Gatti rode the tsunami that followed and Ward looked to have punched himself out. Unbelievably, Gatti recovered and forced Ward into retreating against the ropes. With a minute to go, it was Gatti’s turn to need a breather, and Ward needed no invitation going on to win the round 10-8. “This should be round of the Century!” the commentator shouted. It really was, and there were 98 years of fighting left to go!

With both men out on their feet, somehow they managed to return for the last round and find it somewhere in the tank to continue to fight with the same courage right up until the final bell.

Compubox stats showed that Gatti landed 350 of 779 punches thrown compared to Ward’s 268 of 550. The majority decision was given to Micky Ward on the night but in truth, no man deserved to lose this fight, and fans were treated to two more great fights from these two men.

Enjoy this HBO classic below!


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