Famous Fighter of the Week: “Irish” Mickey Ward

zz Boxing Pulse

By Matthew Baker

The life of Irish Micky Ward seems an almost perfect metaphor for his style and experience in the boxing ring. Known for his ability to withstand considerable punishment while waiting to land the perfect punch, often dropping his opponent in a late round, Ward was a late bloomer as champions go.

After showing initial promise in his first two years in the ring, Ward’s career took such a downswing that, by the time he was 26, he had become a “stepping stone” opponent, assigned to boost better fighters’ confidence and records while depleting his own. After four losses in a row, he retired from the ring and underwent surgery to strengthen the bones in his right hand. He would not box again for three years. When he did, it was with slow and steady training, re-building confidence and prowess.

Thanks to the movie, The Fighter, Ward’s tempestuous relationship with his family has become well known. But the kind of exploitation he received from his handlers (like being expected to fight an opponent 18 pounds heavier “or nobody gets paid”) is not unusual in the fight game. But Ward has always known that loyalty is at least as important to a great sportsman as ambition is and has always found a balance between the two. A great fighter who never won a world title, he is honored and respected as much for this as for anything.

Strangely, the film does not show Ward’s career-defining final fights, his legendary trilogy of bouts against the late Arturo Gatti, for whom he had the utmost respect. Though Ward lost the latter two of the three fights, he ended his career with a three-in-a-row record of participating in The Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year. He said of Gatti, “I wanted to beat him more than anything in the world. But outside the ring, he’s a beautiful guy.”

Today, Ward manages his own gym in his hometown of Lowell, MA, co-owns a hockey rink, and drives with the Teamsters.

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