It was not the first time gentlemen of Irish and Italian extraction had exchanged blows in or out of a boxing ring. Had their lives taken a different turn they could have been doing it on the cobbles, just another Mick, another wop thrown in the drunk tank. These two made history however and in Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti Ward we see how. We follow Micky Ward as he prepares for the induction of Arturo Gatti into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Arturo can’t make it – he has his reasons. He had the star quality that Micky lacked but it is Ward who they made the Oscar-winning movie about, a movie where they miss out the best part – his vicious, life-threatening, life-affirming trilogy with Arturo ‘Thunder’ Gatti.
Had their lives taken a different turn they could have been doing it on the cobbles, just another Mick, another wop thrown in the drunk tank.
It’s Ward’s promoter Lou DiBellend who has the fantasy: these two all-action guys who refuse to back down face each other in the ring. Gatti is the better natural athlete – faster, hits harder and is also the better boxer. If he listens to trainer Buddy McGirt it’s a tough but routine defence. Gatti’s decision to give away his natural advantages and go at it on Ward’s terms is what makes the first fight and what makes the trilogy.
It’s a superb fight for the first 8 rounds – first Gatti, then Ward seeking and destroying. And then comes round 9, the round the takes it into the stratosphere and its place as one of the greatest fights ever seen. Within seconds of the bell Gatti is downed and crippled by a shot to the liver – Micky Ward’s signature punch. His face distorted in pain, he’s a crouching study in agony. By a miracle he beats the count but he’s as fucked as any boxer ever was. 23 unanswered shots follow from Ward as he wails on the stumbling Gatti. The end is just one punch away.
His face distorted in pain, he’s a crouching study in agony. By a miracle he beats the count but he’s as fucked as any boxer ever was.
And yet Gatti rallies, throwing not just token punches but mean, hurtful shots above and below Ward’s waistline, forcing him back across the ring. The crowd roars – acclaim and astonishment. Commentator Jim Lampley chokes up at the recollection. Well he might – he’s superb in this fight “Ward nods as if to say “Come on! Come on! Come on, let’s fight!”” It’s as big a moment in his career as it is for either of the fighters.
“Ward nods as if to say “Come on! Come on! Come on, let’s fight!”” It’s as big a moment in his career as it is for either of the fighters.
Ward finishes the round by pummelling Gatti into what should be submission but Gatti will not submit. He makes it out of the round looking like The Passion of the Christ. A brutal final round follows and Ward ekes out a narrow 10 round decision. Many watching think they’ll never see a better fight. Two more follow in the next 13 months – the third another fight of the year, both go to Gatti. They are the last 3 fights of Mickey Ward’s career. He retires a millionaire.
And then Arturo marries that skank and winds up dead in Brazil. That’s a whole nother story.
So this is fine. I’m all for hearing from DiBellend, Lampley, Merchant, McGirt, Kathy Duva and the rest of them for their personal insights – always relevant, often moving. And yet they string it out too long. The Hall of Fame induction that frames the narrative isn’t all that interesting and the documentary is probably half an hour longer than it needs to be.
The fight footage is eternal – as berserk and ferocious as it was a decade ago when Gatti and Ward first touched gloves
Still, if it stirs up interest in The Fighter sequel or boxing in general more power to it. The fight footage is eternal – as berserk and ferocious as it was a decade ago when Gatti and Ward first touched gloves and put themselves and each other through the meat grinder for our entertainment. It’s a fucked up sport but we keep coming back.
The verdict: Edit it down to 50 minutes and you’re grand.
Marks out of 10: 7