Breaking down Gatti vs Ward 1

“Irish” Mickey Ward

Those of you who say the movie “The fighter” already know him. He is a tough as nails inside fighter. He is well known for his nasty left hook to the body and brutal non-stop come forward assault. Hailing from the broken down mill town of Lowell, Mass this guy was always down for a brawl earning fight of the year honors 3 times in his career.

Arturo “Thunder” Gatti

Gatti was an agressive all out action fighter. He had very good power in his left hook and of the 40 wins he had in his career he KO’ed 31 of his opponents. He could be quite slick when he wanted to be but when push comes to shove you could always count on Gatti to get pulled into a firefight. He came out early looking box Ward from the outside maintain distance with his Jab and use his footwork to stay away from the tough inside fighter.
Every body expected this to be a great fight with two durable hard hitting guys going toe to toe. But almost nobody expected what was about to happen that night. What transpired is one of the most brutal displays of human endurance the boxing ring had seen since the “Thrilla in Manila” when Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali brought each other to the brink of death. This fight is everything beautiful and terrible about the sport all rolled into one.

Gatti’s outside game

Gatti starts to open up with combinations most of which land on the gloves of Ward. He is trying to discourage Ward from coming forward by making him pay for every step he takes. If you notice the first few combos he throws are all alternating left hand/ right hand punches. But Gatti circles out and throws a jab/left hook/right hand, landing the hook by changing up the sequence of punches. He created a pattern with the first combos and broke the pattern which allowed him to land the shot.


Ward walks him down

In this sequence we see Ward cut the ring well by stepping at an angle to get where Gatti intends to go as he circles to his right. Gatti jabs and Ward steps in with a right which misses but lands a left uppercut to the head. Gatti tries to clinch but leaves Ward’s hands free, Ward pushes Gatti off and lands two left hooks to the body. This is what the fight needs to look like if Ward is going to win.

Countering the Jab

Ward uses the classic “catch and pitch” method to deal with Gatti’s jab from the outside. He waits for Gatti to jab first then as the jab comes in he parries the punch with his right hand and throws a jab of his own with the left. This is a must have skill if you intend to be a successful inside fighter. You can’t just rush in with out jabbing because you are a sitting duck as you close the distance and by walking into punches you make them more powerful.(More on that here Last Gif) You need to give your opponent an incentive to walk back into the ropes so you can get to your opponents body.

Angles, counters and body work

In the beginning of this Gif Gatti is getting uncomfortably close to the ropes so he throws a right uppercut/left hook before skipping off to his left side and getting back to the center of the ring. Ward throws a tentative jab and takes a big right hand counter that makes Ward cover up in his high guard defense. Gatti takes the opportunity to land a couple of hard hooks to Ward’s exposed body.

Ward is relentless

He just never stops coming forward. Watch Ward’s right hand here. He grabs a hold of Gatti’s head with his elbow in front of Gatti’s left shoulder. This prevents Gatti from throwing his mean left hook as a counter as he goes banging away to the head and body trying to wear Gatti down. Notice how he keeps switching targets from head to body. By changing up his attack he prevents Gatti from just hiding his head behind his glove and weathering his assault and Gatti can’t counter with his right because it will open him up to a beating.

Ward’s sticky right hand

Here, after the men trade jabs, Ward ducks down and cracks Gatti with a hard overhand right. But he doesn’t pull it back his head to defend instead loops in under Gatti’s left arm in what wrestlers call an underhook. It again allows him to punch Gatti with his free left hand with out much fear of return fire. Gatti backs up to the ropes and Ward throws a right hook which Gatti ducks underneath. Ward puts his arm on the back of Gatti’s neck and can take his time setting up a perfect left hook to the liver.

Gatti goes low and ringside stupidity

Yeah, ouch. Now normally after a fighter takes a low blow he is given up to 5 minutes to recover, but because the ref never called time out after the punch the dumbass timekeeper allowed the round to run out. It gave Ward only one minute to recover rather than the 5 he deserved. But the guy is a warrior and responded like one. A point was taken from Gatti (the equivalent of winning a round) for the foul.

Fighting off the ropes

When somebody presses you against the ropes but aren’t throwing punches, sometimes it is best to just fire off a combination to force them to set their feet and circle out. Gatti does this beautifully here an inactive Ward who is probably still not 100% after taking that brutal nut shot earlier

This is no longer boxing

This is a fight. This isn’t one trying to be better than the other with technique and skill. This is madness. It’s at once inspiring, dramatic, exhausting and brutal. It’s the type of thing that leaves me speechless in ways that only art can. Tommie Toe Hold says it better than I ever could:

Gatti can do it too

Here Gatti throws a jab and Ward tries to counter with a right hand over the top of it. Rather than retract his hand he uses it to push Ward’s head to the right before cracking him two right hands before continuing to flurry with straight punches.

Brilliance off the ropes

Gatti is not really known as a slick defender but he shows great head movement making Ward miss 5 straight punches. Ward takes an uppercut before ducking under more return fire before Gatti pivots off but again Gatti uses a sticky left look to keep Ward’s head down before getting back to the center of the ring, where he wants the fight to happen.

Ward comes back yet again

He catches Gatti with an uppercut as Gatti walks in. Archie Moore (the guy with the most KO’s of any boxer ever at 131 knockouts) advocated using the uppercut as a defensive punch for when an opponent tries to pressure in the center of the ring and this a perfect reason why. When a fighter is trying to pressure he has to square up his stance and dip his head a bit to punch with either hand if his opponent moves to either side. This leaves a perfect hole for the uppercut and Ward badly stuns Gatti with it. Also notice how low Gatti’s hands are. That is what consistently body punching can make a guy do. He is literally sacreficeing his face to defend the body.

Ward gets the knockdown

Notice how nicely Ward punches are here and how nicely they all fit together. After Gatti tries to clinch he ducks his head down, Gatti throws two uppercuts to get him to lift his head back up. Followed by two right hands over the top to push his head down again. Another uppercut to lift the head and he cracks first with a left hook to the head and then a brutal body shot that makes Gatti take a knee. Beautiful punch selection by Ward.

Slow Mo

A every fighter just cringed. Body shots to the liver are the worst punch you can take. It feels like a combination of the worst runners cramp ever and if it’s hard enough it can cause short term paralysis. Because of the Vagus nerve that runs around the liver, a hard enough punch causes it to overload with electrical signals and basically prevents your brain from talking to your legs. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to hell and I have a 3 inch stab wound. But Gatti got up and bravely continued to answer every shot Ward through. Round 9 of this fight is generally considered one of the greatest rounds of all time.

The last 10 seconds

No quit in either guy throwing hard punches until the bell. They get a standing ovation from every fan in attendance and even the judges. They share moment of solidarity that can only come from two people who have beaten the shit out of each other.

It goes to the judges

After that incredible war Micky Ward earns a Majority decision (2 thought Ward won, one thought it a draw) Mickey said it was going to be his last fight before he retired. But he was wrong, He would go on to fight Gatti 2 more times in the next year before retiring. Both this fight and the last of their trilogy were named fight of the year in 2002 and 2003.
On a sadder note Arturo Gatti was found dead in Brazil on July 11. 2009. His widow was charged with first degree murder. Many believe she killed him and attempted to cover it up by making it look like a suicide. Not all boxing stories have a happy ending. He was 37 years old. R.I.P Arturo Gatti

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