The seed was planted on Monday, after Micky Ward ran the last nine miles of the Boston Marathon in support of a pal.
Post-race, Ward was chatting with a dude he knows who is also buddies with Arturo Gatti.
“Hey, Mick,” the mutual friend said, “what if you trained Arturo?”
Ward pondered the prospect, for a millisecond, and said, Hell, yeah, I'd do it.
The subject was then switched but the matter wasn't closed.
On Thursday evening, Ward got a call from Patrick Lynch, Gatti's manager.
“Hey, Mick, how's it going? There's someone here who wants to talk to you,” Lynch said.
“Put 'im on,” Ward said.
“Hey, Mick, it's me, Arturo. Wanna be my new head coach?”
Again, Ward pondered the matter, this time for half a millisecond.
“Yeah,” he answered.
And that's how the two foes for the ages, linked forever by their gorgeously violent trilogy of intermingled sweat and blood, forged a new link in their relationship chain.
Ward will travel to Florida a week from Sunday to work the corner of the man who inflicted some–hell, a lot more than some– hellacious punishment on him in their three epic wars.
The first one came on May 18, 2002 and expectations weren't sky high for it. Gatti was a man without a weight class, caught in between 140 and 147, and Oscar De La Hoya had wiped the floor with him in March 2001. Gatti had rebounded with a win over Terron Millett, and for that fight, he used the services of Buddy McGirt for the first time.
The first Ward/Gatti fight–I call it that because the Irishman got the nod–was a back and forth battle at Mohegan Sun that Ward snagged a majority win.
Six months later, Gatti/Ward 2 took place on Gatti's hometurf, in AC, and home was sweet for the Human Highlight Reel. He took a UD10, pretty decisively, so it was decided that everyone would earn some solid dough, and do it one more time. The third faceoff came on June 7, 2003, with Gatti breaking the one-all tie, and sending Ward off to spend more time paving blacktop in Massachusetts.
The two forged–and that is the right word, as this wasn't a bond that coalesced over a shared fondness for fantasy baseball, or fly fishing–a deep admiration for each other along the way.
The bond is now that much deeper, and Gatti is asking more of Ward. Before, they could hoist a few cold ones, and reminisce about the 30 rounds that pushed their limits, and shaped their ring legacies. Now, Ward, who has trained Contender alum Jeff Fraza, will be in charge of crafting and overseeing Gatti's training regimen. And he'll need to come up with technical and strategic battleplan that may, or may not, restore Gatti's career.
The scrappy trader reworked his game with McGirt, and added a level of defensive solidity that earned him a date with Floyd Mayweather on June 25, 2005. It didn't go well. PBF was in a completely different class and made Arturo look like a washed up clubfighter.
Gatti then beat Thomas Damgaard on January 26, 2006 (TKO11) but didn't remove the lingering doubts from the PBF mauling. The doubts mushroomed on July 22, 2006, when Carlos Baldomir made Gatti look like he was at the end of the line (TKO9), like it was time to seriously investigate a change in vocation. Gatti's been on hiatus since then, pondering.
Do I still have the passion needed to do it? Do I still have the skills, the reflexes, to do it? Yes, Gatti decided, I do. I'm not ready for a new job, boxing is still my gig.
Gatti sat down with McGirt and explained that he'd like a change of scenery.
“We sat down and he said he wanted a change,” McGirt told TSS.
Buddy wished him well.
Yup, this is the gentlest breakup you could ever see.
So, Buddy, does Gatti have another run in him, or should he hang 'em up?
“I think he has a whole lot left,” McGirt said.
And, how will the Ward/Gatti dynamic look in this new version?
“Arturo is very coachable,” the trainer said. “He's not stubborn. He'll be OK.”
Ward, meanwhile, is approaching this arrangement without blinders of admiration on.
“Arturo won't know if he can make another run 'til he gets going,” Ward said. “But I think he does, he sounds motivated. We'll take it fight by fight.”
C'mon, wouldn't it be a treat to see Ward guide Gatti on another run?
“It sounds good,” Ward said. “Arturo's capable of doing something like that.”
And if there's anyone who can say that and mean it, it's Micky Ward, foe, friend, and now, trainer to Arturo Gatti.