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Ward relishes underdog role in Gatti II

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Based on the still reverberating buzz from that encounter at the Mohegan Sun, junior welterweights “Irish” Micky Ward and Canadian-born Arturo Gatti go at it again this Saturday in Atlantic City, in a multi-million-dollar rematch of the first bout won by Ward.
Ward-Gatti II will be broadcast live on HBO at 9:45 p.m. and will reportedly earn each fighter $1.25 million.
There will be no trinkets or gaudy belts at stake at the Boardwalk Hall. Just enormous gladiator-like pride on both sides, and the basic instinct of survival. In a rarity in recent times in boxing, the contest pits two blue-collar pugs with a similar philosophy to prize fighting: take no backward step, and hit and get hit.
Fans have voiced their approval for the tantalizing rematch by snapping up all the tickets at the 12,000 capacity Boardwalk. That would make it the biggest non-heavyweight fight to be held in Atlantic City since 11,217 watched Oscar De La Hoya beat Wilfredo Rivera in December 1997.
“Fight fans know that when two warriors like Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward enter the ring, fireworks are guaranteed,” said co-promoter Kathy Duva.
The Lowell, Mass.-based Ward, a 37-year-old former World Boxing Union titlist, will enter the ring a slight underdog, according to Las Vegas bookies, despite his majority points victory over the 30-year-old Gatti last spring.
Undaunted, he’s looking for an encore performance after the longest training camp of his 17-year fight career.
“I’m physically stronger than ever and I can’t wait for the fight,” he said during the pre-fight build up. “I’m going to do the same thing I did last time.”
With one exception.
“The only difference is that I’d like to start faster,” Ward said. “To win, I’ll have to pressure him and keep coming at him.”
The aging Irish-American warrior also has perhaps the biggest weapon in the 140-pound division: the paralyzing left hook to the liver with which he dropped Gatti and nearly stopped him in the ninth round of their first fight.
Said Ward of his hook. “I’ve got a right hand and things like that, but it is a good punch and it’s been my bread and butter punch throughout my career. It’s just something that works for me. And it’s not even to the chin.”
Most of the 27 knockouts on Ward’s 38-11 ledger have either come as a result of the hook to the liver or have been set up by it.
If anyone can match Ward’s ability to engage in phone-booth warfare and absorb punishment, it is the Jersey City-domiciled Gatti, who was born in Montreal but has campaigned professionally in the United States.
Fewer fighters have returned from the brink to register so many dramatic victories than the 34-6 (28 KOs) Gatti.
“Gatti’s a tough guy, a real good guy who I have a lot of respect for,” said Ward, reflecting sentiments that are mutual.
Still, don’t expect the two sluggers to treat each other with kid gloves.
“I expect him to try and box more, but I’ll do what I have to do to beat him again,” Ward said.
On the boxing public’s fascination with their potential bloodfest, Ward noted: “We had a great fight the first time and they pretty much know it’s going to be a great fight the second time, so I think that’s why people are coming out for the fight and they’re glad to see it.
“There are a lot of great guys in boxing, but not too many good role models.”

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