Friday, April 30, 2010

The Most Beautiful Thing I've Ever Seen

This was a reply to Sarah Perrich's most recent blog. It was too long to post as a reply so I posted it here as I thought I should

I should probably post this on my own blog, but reading this made me re-realize something.
Probably the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life was a boxing match.
In 2002, I was lucky enough to witness firsthand (on HBO) "Irish" Micky Ward fight Arturo "Thunder" Gatti. After Ward's "Fight of the Year" with Emmanuel Burton in 2001 and Gatti's "Fight of the Year" with Ivan Robinson in 1998, this was a fight boxing fans were waiting for.
They met in Uncasville, Connecticut in 2002 with neither fighter having a title on the line. But HBO knew this bout's potential for greatness and made it their "Boxing After Dark" main event.
Both fighters had brawler instincts. Gatti was a better boxer and his left hook and his late-round, come from behind capacity was widely discussed, but Ward was also well known for his left hook to the body which knocked out more than a few opponents. Neither was a highly touted candidate for junior welterweight champion, but neither cared.
The drama took place in the ring.
Gatti started strong, out-boxing Ward, sticking and moving at his will beating Ward until Ward began to close the distance in the 3rd round, catching Gatti with a few of his renowned body shots.
After being awarded a point for a Gatti low blow in the 4th, assaulted Gatti in the 5th with devastating combinations at the end of the round. It was a nearly 10 punch combination that made you wonder where Ward came up with that kind of a combination, and how in the hell did Gatti not fall down. This was one of the many times in the fight this thought crossed my mind.
Gatti miraculously came back in the 6th and 7th to re-assert himself as the consummate boxer, but at the end of the 8th round, Ward nearly knocked Gatti out as a result of a body punch and a brutal combination that the Hoover Dam would have had a difficult time withstanding.
Gatti had trouble shaking that combination off. The announcers were having trouble describing what had just happened in the 8th when the bell for the 9th round began.
Both men were battered and bruised. But each showed the true meaning of "heart." Ward smelled blood and assaulted Gatti, putting him to the canvas with one of his wicked body shots. Gatti narrowly beat the count, and clamping his right arm to his ribcage, for the next 60 seconds absorbed Ward's artillary bombs to his face and refused to go down. Midway through the round, Ward had grown so weary of punching that Gatti began to throw punches back, rocking Ward and stunning the audience with his tenacity and granite chin. By the end of the round, however, Ward regained himself, forced Gatti into the corner, held him at arms length and blasted him to the chin with one of the hardest punches I've ever seen from a 140 pound man.
This punch prompted the announcers to yell to the referee, Frank Cappucino, to stop the fight. But as Gatti refused to fall, the ref refused to stop the fight. God bless Frank Cappucino.
Gatti came back and swung, like a drunken cuckold at Ward's midsection and connected several times. Ward swung back like a man who couldn't believe he'd lost a fight with a brick wall and missed. The bell rang. Both men were still, beyond all belief, standing.
Ward's right eye was gushing blood and had been since the first round. Both of Gatti's eyes were swollen so bad he could hardly see out of either of them. Gatti's corner tried to throw in the towel, but was too late, and referee, Frank Cappucino made the two men fight the 10th and final round.
Gatti assaulted Ward. He boxed like a man who had just begun the fight, not like one who nearly quit. Punished with combinations from Gatti, Ward had no choice to abandon all defense and launch his own animalistic, yet inefficient barrage. Gatti clearly won the round, though the fight ended with both men throwing hay-makers and allowing the other to land punches at will.
The score was essentially meaningless, but Ward won a majority decision. They would go on to finish one of the greatest boxing trilogies in history, with Gatti winning the next two fights, even though he broke his right hand in each.
But the will, the determination and every other sports cliche worth repeating was on display that night and it would be a fool who found otherwise in Uncasville, Connecticut that night.
Color me a barbarian, but that was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

My lips to yours.


  1. I can't believe Ward hit Gatti in the face that many times in a row and he didn't fall. Most amazing thing ever.