This upcoming Saturday in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward go at it for the third, and we presume, final time. Ward would come out victorious in the first fight last May in what was an insta-classic and then Gatti would gain his revenge in November by clearly out-boxing 'Irish' Micky the second time around.
Some have wondered with the dominance of Gatti's win and the fact that many felt he won the first time out too, if we really needed to see a third edition of Gatti-Ward?
I'm not so sure we need it, but I could think of plenty of other things I'd rather not see than a trilogy between these two guys. C'mon, it's not like they're making another sequel to 'Police Academy' or something. This has been one of the most intriguing and exciting rivalries the game has seen in recent years and their styles and temperments complement each other perfectly.
And besides, in an era where there are so few rivalries and then subsequent rematches, who wouldn't want these guys to go at it again? And if there are two guys deserving of million dollar-plus paydays, it's these two.
It's not so much the raw God-given talent that these two possess, but the hellacious efforts they have given in the past. Most fighters are defined by their wins and losses. These two are defined by their efforts- the results almost don't matter. To most boxing fans it doens't matter that Gatti lost both of his bouts to Ivan Robinson or that he was stopped on cuts by Angel Manfredy. His wins against Gabriel Ruelas and Wilson Rodriguez are just as memorable for what he had to go through as the wins itself.
While Gatti has been considered a world-class fighter for most of his career and has won a world title, Ward has always been below that level. For years he was considered just a tough New England journeyman who gave it his best. In 1991, after losing six of his last nine bouts he would take off nearly three years after losing a ten round verdict to Ricky Meyers- by that time he had become a full-fledged opponent/journeyman. But since returing to the game in 1994 he has become more than just a well-known 'B'-side.
His two big, back-to-back wins against then-prospect Louis Veader would jump-start his career and since that point his left hook to the body has resulted in wins against the likes of Pancho Sanchez, Reggie Green( both of these in comeback fashion), Jermal Corbin, Shea Neary, Steve Quinonez, Emanuel Augustus and Gatti. His losses have come against world-class fighters like Vince Phillips( for the IBF jr. welterweight title), Zab Judah, Antonio Diaz, Jesse James Leija and Gatti- and he didn't embarrass himself in any of these defeats.
Gatti himself is a fighter that has been rejuvenated and rehabilitated himself after losing consecutive bouts to Robinson in 1998, bringing his losing skid to three fights( as he had lost to Manfredy before that) he had acquired the well-earned rep as an exciting fighter but not one that was particularly well-versed in the art of self-defense and definitely not built for the long haul. With the way he got hit every fight, it seemed his expiration date was closing in on him faster than a carton of three week old milk.
Main Events, which has promoted Gatti throughout his career made two key adjustments in revitilizing their fighter. First they would go on a steady diet of 'B' and 'C'-level fighters to feast on and rebuild Gatti's confidence. In subsequent fights he would dispatch of Reyes Munoz, Joey Gamache, Eric Jakubowski, Joe Hutchinson before being used as a sacrificial comeback opponent at welterweight against Oscar De La Hoya, getting stopped in five rounds.
From there, two-time champion Buddy McGirt, who had begun his career as a trainer, was brought in to take over the duties of training 'Thunder' from Hector Rocha. McGirt, would then start to lay the foundation of Gatti's long-lost boxing that had been dormant for so long. There first bout was against Terron Millett in January of 2002 and it would result in a four round stoppage of 'the Tramp'. Then the two fight series with Ward where he would win the majority of the rounds using his legs and jabs. Only when Gatti would hang in the pocket and stop moving would Ward have sustained success.
It's been a common misperception that McGirt has taught Gatti how to box. If you go back to the night when Gatti won his IBF jr. lightweight crown in December of 1995, you'll see that he always had good, solid boxing skills. In fact, he was known as a pretty good boxer/puncher throughout his early days until he morphed into pure action slugger as he had to battle making weight and blurred vision caused by frequent cuts. In recent years Gatti has taken much better care of himself and is making the 140-pound limit quite comfortably, eliminating some of the physical ailments that would hamper him in fights.
Also you have to consider that Ward- with his straight-ahead style, hands up high on his face, with not much jabbing- is not that difficult to out-box and out-manuveur around the ring. Ward counts on being able to walk opponents down, crowd and smother them and then hook relentlessly to the body. If you create distance with Ward, he's not nearly as effective. In fact, in the second bout with Gatti, for most of the night he was impotent.
But that isn't to say that the third bout should be an easy one for Gatti, I mean, c'mon, look at who we're dealing with here. In the third round of the rematch, Ward would get nailed with a crushing right hand that would not only send him dazed and dizzy to the canvas but it would also puncture his ear-drum, effecting his equilibrium for the rest of the fight. You get the sense that without that ailment, it's a much closer fight.
And it will be, but I look for Gatti to employ the same tactics he did last November to win a decision and take the rubber match.
Ricardo Williams was to have made his comeback this Tuesday night on the opening of this years 'Tuesday Night Fight' series on ESPN2. Williams, a 2000 silver medalist for the U.S. in the Olympic Games was one of the most highly touted amateurs coming out and had been signed by Lou DiBella to a lucrative promotional contract.
After being put on the fast track, things would come to a grinding halt when he was upset by Juan Valenzuela- a journeyman brought in on two days notice-this past February.
This past Friday, he would be released by DiBella after not coming to new terms on his guaranteed minimums. It's standard practice in this business that when a young prospect loses that the figures on his contract get downgraded. Williams and his people didn't see it that way and now they find themselves as free agents.
” To be honest, there was an exchange, there were some words, some letters exchanged and I think it became clear to each side with the other sides position was and it just became clear from a business standpoint that we weren't going to reach an agreement,” explained DiBella, of the parting of ways.
What makes this such a tough move is that DiBella had counted on Williams being one of the bedrocks of his fledgling company and had already put in over $2 million into this kids career.