The Lessons From Ward-Gatti

By Tom Donelson, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 18, 2009

Boxing Ring IOWA CITY (BASN) — Watching the HBO special on the Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward trilogy one sees the execution of two different styles — the brawler versus the boxing-puncher. Ward, existential brawler, had one chance to beat Gatti, out scrap and out hustle him.

Throughout his career, Gatti alternated between brawler and boxer but by the time he faced Ward; he was a boxer.

This was the classic boxer versus brawler contest and this was fight that both fighters could hurt each other but Gatti had one advantage; he could change styles whereas Ward could only fight straight ahead.

In the opening three rounds of their first fight, Gatti boxed and dominated Ward from the outside but as each round progressed, Ward did what brawlers had to do; close the distance.

By the fourth round, Ward got close enough to shoot right hand over Gatti’s left, one of those rights hurt Gatti and changed the round around. Ward, a notorious left hooker, developed a short right hand capable of striking in close.

Occasionally trapping Gatti on the rope, the short right hand became more of a weapon in the early rounds for Ward than his left hook but the left hook slowed the boxer down.

For the brawler, it is the body shot that is great equalizer for it slows the boxer down. Gatti countered with body shots of his own, working on the theory that body shots can equally slow a body puncher down.

Gatti would repeat this strategy in all three fights.

In the first fight, Ward body punching allowed him to catch Gatti and his left hook sent Gatti’s down for an eight-count and that hook proved the decisive punch in the first bout.

Yet throughout the second half of the bout, Gatti had his moment as he occasionally boxed and in the last round, he found enough courage to survive the Ward onslaught the round before and took the last round before losing a close majority decision.

What this made a classic confrontation was that Gatti was not overly quick so Ward had his chance to catch Gatti but Gatti was good enough of boxer to move around the slower Ward plus had the power to hurt Ward.

In the second fight, Gatti boxing ability took advantage of the charging Ward. In the first round, Ward attempted to jab his way in but Gatti’s movement allowed him to escape and Ward chased Gatti as oppose to cutting off ring.

Gatti also unleashed body shots after head shots thus confusing Ward. The first fight saw Ward dictate the fight over the second half of the fight but in the second fight, it was the boxer who dictated most of the pace.

The third round saw a pattern similar to the first fight as Gatti took the early rounds before Ward caught him in the fourth. The third fight had one dramatic moment when Gatti broke his right hand in the fourth round.

In the sixth round, a Ward left hook nailed Gatti at the end of the round but Gatti mobility saved him as he moved out of harms way over the last three rounds. He also threw his right hand on occasion, despite the pain.

For boxing fans, these fights are a perfect study of what to do in taking advantage of the skills you have. For Mickey Ward, he lacked fast hands and fast hand. What he had was a devastating left hook and he learned to throw a vicious right later in his career.

Without speed but with power in his hands, Ward had only way to fight if he wanted to be a successful career; he had to move forward. There is one thing that brawler needs and that is a granite chin.

Without that, it wouldn’t matter about his other skills. Without the ability to take a punch, his left hook is a waste. In the second round of their second fight, Ward went down from a vicious right and not only survived but landed a left hook that shook Gatti near the end of the fight .

For Gatti, he fought different styles over his career but at his best, he was a boxer. Gatti’s weakness was also his strength, a warrior instinct. A warrior is never afraid to a brawl but there are times that boxer with a warrior heart will forget to box.

In their trilogy, Gatti got into trouble when he fought toe to toe.

At his best against Ward, he fought at a distance and move. This proved more effective as the trilogy moved ahead. In their first fight, Ward sucked Gatti into trench warfare but as the series progressed, Gatti developed more disciplined.

In reviewing these fights, boxing fans saw the best of a brawler against a solid boxer. The boxer won most of the rounds but the brawler hurt the boxer numerous times. The key for any boxer fighting the brawler, the boxer must have enough power to hurt the brawler and this power allows the boxer to prevail.

Ali prevailed against Frazier but he had enough power to hurt Frazier whereas Frazier easily dominated boxers like Jimmy Ellis because Ellis could never hurt Frazier.

The Ward-Gatti trilogy was an example of boxing at its best when two conflicting styles combined to make for a great series.