May 18, 2002: The Measure of Men

By Cheekay Brandon on May 17, 2012
May 18, 2002: The Measure of Men
Something about Gatti-Ward is so very special that it almost deserves its mythical status.

Gatti and Ward chose to stay and fight, even when logic, biology and human empathy recommended an early exit…

“I used to wonder what would happen if I fought my twin. Now I know.”—Arturo “Thunder” Gatti (1972-2009)

The Fighters

Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been able to take “Marky Mark” Wahlberg seriously as an actor. Maybe it’s because I can’t separate Christian Bale from the Batman costume. 

For some reason, I was one of the few who didn’t instantly gravitate to 2010’s critically acclaimed ‘The Fighter.” I didn’t see it until the end of its run in theaters. 

As a film and boxing junkie, this doesn’t make sense. I had followed production of the film for years (and stand by my opinion that the film would have been even better had Darren Aronofsky directed it).

I should have been first in line. 

Maybe it was the sense of ownership that any early adopter feels, the resentment towards legions of disingenuous new fans that hopped on the bandwagon late (“You guys aren’t real fans!”). 

After all, I knew who Micky Ward was before the film

And you, Mr./Ms. Sundance Film Festival, did not.

I became a lifelong fan of Micky Ward on a fateful Saturday in May 2002.

That’s right—the first fight of Micky Ward’s epic trilogy with Arturo Gatti.

“I never lost a fight because I wasn’t in shape or because I wasn’t ready. I lost because I was either beaten by a man better than me, or it wasn’t my night.”—Micky Ward

I remember reading a review of “The Fighter” that made no mention of Arturo Gatti. 

I winced. 

A Hollywood film about Micky Ward without Arturo Gatti? Seriously?

Of course, Ward’s story is about far more than Arturo Gatti. If anything, that Ward’s life story was so rich adds special charm to the Gatti-Ward trilogy.

The Measure of Men

I am on record as having said that I consider Corrales-Castillo I to be a better boxing match than any of the Gatti-Ward fights. 


Because unlike Gatti-Ward, Corrales-Castillo featured two [A] grade, top-flight fighters. 

Arturo Gatti, at his peak, might have been a high [B] grade fighter, possibly a low [A] grade fighter (good enough to beat a legitimate [A] class fighter on a bad night).

And Ward? Maybe a higher grade [B] fighter, one who maximized his god given talents and exceeded all expectations by several orders a magnitude. Determination (and body punching) made him a world championship contender.

Note that by suggesting that neither Gatti nor Ward were elite we aren’t, at all, diminishing the importance of the trilogy. 

In fact, their non-greatness is part of why May 18, 2002 is so special: there were no jaw-dropping athletic feats; no Roy Jones Jr. leaping left hooks; no Lennox Lewis right hands; none of Naseem Hamed’s foot or hand speed.

We marvel at Gatti-Ward I specifically because the only thing superhuman about the fight was the amount of human spirit on display. 

There was only an utter refusal to give in; an absolute disregard for human anatomy and physiology; a willingness to travel to uncharted depths of the human spirits, a place so dark that human traits like pride usually don’t survive.

In this dangerous place, where only those who have stared death in the face have traveled, stood Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, en route to one of the defining experiences of my actual life, let alone my life as a student of boxing. 

Yes, affixing real world significance to any sporting event walks uncomfortably close to a dangerous slippery slope. After all, it is the perversion of this idea that creates fanatic, violent fandom.

Something about Gatti-Ward, however, is so special that it almost deserves its mythical status. 

Gatti-Ward was like watching two spirits walk back and forth over the line that defines whether we have nothing or everything to live for. Gatti and Ward chose to stay and fight, even when logic, biology and human empathy recommended an early exit.

And so I’ll defend the hyperbole: watching the infamous 9th round, for example, still affects me—two men seemingly within inches of their lives, barely able to see, let alone stand, refusing to go down. 

And its effect transcends boxing—I think more generally about how little I’ve required of myself, how few personal limits I’ve come close to pushing.

It’s simultaneously a frustrating and inspiring perspective to adopt.

It can make my blood boil. 

It can bring a tear to my eye. 

And at my most vulnerable, it forces me to reflect on my many personal demons, more willing than ever to stare them in the face, hands up, chin down, ready to walk through hell and back to defeat them.

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  1. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 01:17pm, 05/18/2012

    Cheekay Brandon-Hyperbole?.....if so then I’ll have another serving. From “We marvel at Gatti-Ward” on you were absolutely rippin’!

  2. the thresher 12:48pm, 05/18/2012

    Each had done it several times in the past so when they met each other, it was like two speeding trains colliding. No backing up from either guy. Just pure warriors going at it.

    Thing is, they were both on familiar ground.

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