By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Why on earth did the late referee Frank Capuccino not stop this bout after Arturo Gatti got dropped by Mickey Ward in round nine by one of the most vicious body shots the world has ever known? The Micky Ward versus Arturo Gatti trilogy is a famous one, like Muhammad Ali versus Ken Norton, Manny Pacquiao versus Juan Manuel Marquez, Muhammad Ali versus Smoking Joe Frazier. A trilogy in boxing refers to a series of fights between two fighters, three to be exact or more, which go down in history as timeless. Like Jack Johnson versus Joe Jeanette, some opponents never die in the ring record book. YouTube keeps some of these old rivalries going on forever, long after the fighters have retired and gone on to the hereafter. Somewhere out there, Jack LaMotta, who is still alive, still shadowboxes alone in the dark for a few hours every day. Sugar Ray Robinson is still there in spirit, taking ‘The Raging Bull’ on another trip to living hell.
In ‘the round of the century, (topping ever Thomas Hearns versus Marvelous Marvin Hagler round one) Ward teed off on Gatti, Gatti Teed off on Ward, then Ward teed off on Gatti. The continuance of the round to its three minutes ending conclusion appeared sadistic. Gatti’s right eye was closed, while Ward was bleeding from the right eye.
Ward, trailing on the commentator’s unofficial scorecard by a point going into round nine, battled on to the final bell at the end of round 10 to win a majority decision. Gatti would go on to win the next two 10 rounders with Ward, who career ended with his bouts with Gatti. So far as entertainment is concerned, Ward and Gatti put Floyd and Sugar ray Leonard to shame. Ward and Gatti were like two rock’em sock’em robots with alkaline batteries which never run out of juice. Like an old Timex watch, Gatti and Ward took a licking and kept on ticking.
The viciousness of their infamous round nine, in the annuals of boxing history, remains nuts. It was, as the late ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell noted during George Foreman versus Ron Lyle “action the way the boxing public wants to see it.” The way Ward and Gatti tortured each other on a trip to hell in round nine was memorable, to say the least. If you were betting on the three Ward versus Gatti fights, I would have told you “The safest bet is not to bet.” Ward and Gatti wanted to kill each other in the ring and each gave it their best shot. With no mistake about their intentions, referee Frank Cappucino let it ride. They did it again twice after the first bout ended. The boxing hyenes, it seemed, couldn’t get enough of their mutilation of each other. For Gatti and Ward, round nine was a most memorable trip to hell.