Micky Ward, now 52, never quit on Lowell Mass. It’s the fighting city where in 1978 he first made his name in boxing as a baby-faced pipsqueak with dreams of red jackets and Golden Gloves.
Green jackets were “for the losers”.
The “winners wore red,” Ward said.
Some might think it’s sad but after three million-dollar paydays against Arturo Gatti and a Hollywood movie (THE FIGHTER) made about his life, Ward still lives off Stevens Street in Lowell with his wife Charlene and their thunderous bulldog GG Girl. It’s a normal life in boxing retirement for a regular guy who still works construction to pay the bills.
TSS’s Jeffrey Freeman sat down with Ward in Boston at Club Royale last Monday at a USA Boxing event pitting U.S.A. against Ireland in an international competition. The “Mickster” was in the house for an alumni shindig that included fellow Irishman Kevin “Clones Colossus” McBride.
He and McBride were honorary team captains.
USA beat up IRL 8-4.
For Ward, the hour long drive down to Boston must’ve felt something akin to a crime scene comeback. It was here in 1997 (then simply: The Roxy) that Ward received his one and only true shot at a world title; the IBF super lightweight championship held by “Cool” Vince Phillips.
When a terrible gash opened over Micky’s left eye in the third round, female ringside physician Patty Yoffee quickly stopped the fight over the protestations of Ward and his policeman trainer Mickey O’Keefe. What looked like the end was really just the beginning of Ward’s greatest run.
Ever the slow starter, Micky went on to engage in several Fight of the Year caliber bouts with Emanuel Augustus, Reggie Green, Shea Neary, Antonio Diaz, and the unforgettable Thunder Gatti Trilogy. With his blood and sweat, Ward claimed his place in history by sheer force of will.
Win, lose or die, Ward (38-13 with 27 KOs from 1985 to 2003) gave his full measure of devotion to the sport of boxing. Today, he is revered for it. During a 10-round interview in downtown Boston, the aptly nicknamed “Pride of Lowell” opened up his high guard to comment honestly on a variety of interesting topics ranging from Deontay Wilder to Dicky Eklund to Donald J. Trump.
TSS: What is your life in Lowell like these days? Are you still involved in the mill city’s Golden Gloves boxing community? What does a typical day look like for the retired fighter Micky Ward?
Micky Ward: I still work. I work for Newport Construction doing concrete and asphalt. I took some time off from boxing. To be honest with you I got burned out. I’m away from it right now. I’ll go back in a year or so but I needed some time away.
TSS: For most fans, it was your fight against Alfonzo Sanchez on the De La Hoya-Whitaker PPV undercard that exposed them to you for the first time. The HBO announcers were portraying you as an unprofessional palooka before you took Sanchez out with one body shot. Were they being unprofessional? What are your thoughts on boxing commentators in general?
Micky Ward: They were a little harsh but in all due respect, I wasn’t fighting like I should have been. Did I deserve that? No. But hey that’s their job. I’m friends with Larry Merchant and Roy Jones now. Roy was the only one who was giving me a fair shake. Roy knew I was better than that and I showed it by staying in there. I could have given up. I could have folded. I could have just quit, whatever. But I said ‘F’ it, I’ll get knocked out before I quit. (chuckles) I almost did!
TSS: After the Gatti Trilogy you retired and became Arturo’s trainer. You’ve also worked with Sean Eklund and Lowell’s Joey McCreedy. Why don’t you train boxers anymore or do you? Is it just too stressful to train a pug who lacks the extraordinary devotion that you possessed?
Micky Ward: I got burned out. I was down in Florida training Mike Tyson’s fighters. I was with trainer Herman Caicedo who had the heavyweight Luis Ortiz who just got stopped by Deontay Wilder. I was down there training those guys but I came back. I got an offer to do something around here that hasn’t materialized yet but it’s in the works. So I went back to construction, paving, like I did years ago. Not every fighter has to be like me. They have their own styles, their own work ethics. But if you don’t have a good work ethic, I ain’t workin with ya, bottom line.
TSS: What are your recollections about the night you fought Vince Phillips here for the world title? You were stopped on cuts, a TKO loss. Should the fight have been allowed to continue?
Micky Ward: To be honest with you, Doctor Patty did me a favor by stopping that fight. I went to the hospital at Mass General. The doctor said one more punch and I could have been blind in that eye because it was going into muscles. Everyone was mad at the fight. Everyone was throwing beer. It was all my damn family! (Micky laughs out loud) But in hindsight she saved my career because without her stopping it I could have been blinded. She’s a great woman.
TSS: What is your assessment of the American WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder? Is the Bronze Bomber as good or better than the United Kingdom’s Anthony Joshua?
Micky Ward: Wilder against Joshua is gonna be a good fight. Deontay Wilder is a hell of a fighter. He showed something in the Ortiz fight that he didn’t show in any of his other fights. He got hurt, pretty bad, and he fought back. That’s a true champion. I think Wilder is the best heavyweight out there. He showed he has balls and heart. He has the will. He’ll come back. He doesn’t just talk smack. That shows me, and I know from being in there, that he’s a warrior.
TSS: What is the biggest difference between the fight game you left in 2003 and the one you see in 2018 with its overpriced PPVs and “super fights” that never seem to happen at the right time?
Micky Ward: There’s so much money out there now and so many titles, it’s almost like you can fight an ordinary guy and make as much as if you fight a good guy. So the business is good for the fighters but it’s not good for the fans. The pay-per-views are like a hundred bucks now and if you get a bum fight you’re screwed.
TSS: Early in your career, you fought several times in Atlantic City at Trump Casinos. Was he good for boxing? Did you ever meet him? Is Trump being a good President of the United States?
Micky Ward: Without getting into politics, I met Donald years ago when I fought at the Trump Plaza, the Harrah’s Trump; all his hotels. He’s a very good guy. He loves boxing. He’s a big boxing fan. And uh, I like him. You know what it is? He says what everyone’s thinking. That’s why some people don’t like him. It’s okay if you don’t like what I like. Me personally, I like him.
TSS: What made your half-brother Dicky Eklund such a motivational trainer? Despite all his personal troubles, he was exactly who you needed to be successful. Why was that so true?
Micky Ward: He’s a crazy man. We just clicked. He knew me in and out and I knew how he was. Even though he was banged up most of the time earlier in my career, he was still good for me. You gotta remember, I’m my own person. He’s his own person. Whatever I do, I can’t help him. He’s gotta help himself. I can ask him to get help but ultimately you gotta help yourself. He knows he’s got a problem and he’s gotta fix it. I’m there for him but he’s gotta fix it.
TSS: God rest his soul, Arturo Gatti died in 2009. The mystery of his death continues. What do you think really happened there in Brazil and are you of the opinion that his wife was involved?
Micky Ward: I don’t really want to say if she was or wasn’t. Who the hell knows? I don’t think Arturo was that kind of person to do it but I can’t blame her because I don’t know. It’s so sad.
TSS: Physically you paid a heavy price to go from relatively unknown boxing underachiever to living legend status. Was it worth it? Would you do it again to become who/what you are today?
Micky Ward: Damn right! I’ve had concussions. I’ve got CTE. I’m donating my brain when I pass. I’m in the [Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy] study. People ask me if I would have boxed more. Nah, I’d be the same. It’s just me. You live with it. I wouldn’t be no different.
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