by Eric Raskin
"People will say they weren't the greatest fighters in the world, but you know what? I'll take those two guys anytime." —Pat Lynch
Most of us have no illusions about how proficient Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward were at the science of boxing. Gatti could make himself appear a highly skilled practitioner against opponents below a certain threshold; against very good opponents he turned into a slugger because he had no other choice, and against great ones, such as Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya, he was hopelessly overmatched. Ward couldn't even trick anyone into temporarily believing he was a slick tactician; he was a brawler, a pressure fighter, a bodysnatcher, and damned good in all of those roles, but you'd catch him sporting a deep suntan before you'd catch him outboxing someone.
The above quote from Pat Lynch, Gatti's career-long manager, heard in the closing moments of the documentary 'Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti-Ward' (premiering Saturday night on HBO, following World Championship Boxing: Alvarado-Provodnikov), says it all. Nobody will ever confuse Gatti and Ward with anybody nicknamed "Sugar" or "Sweet Pea." But no other fighters displayed more heart or punched their way deeper into ours than Gatti and Ward did. That can count for more than victories, championship belts, and pound-for-pound rankings. A visit to BoxRec will not explain why Gatti is in the Hall of Fame or why Ward had an Oscar-nominated movie made about his life; a visit to
YouTube will. Gatti and Ward remain, 10 years after Ward's retirement and four years after Gatti's death, boxing's reigning kings of drama.
But that doesn't mean the warrior breed went extinct when their careers ended. Boxers with oversized hearts continue to find their way onto our TV screens every few weekends. And on Saturday night in Denver, Colorado, two of the best examples going will do their damnedest to remind us of that exhilarating trilogy.