posted on Jun, 5 2003 @ 03:51 PM
Canadian Press - June 3, 2003
(CP) - For two guys who stand in a ring and hammer each other, Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward are awfully friendly.
The two super-lightweights even plan to play golf together after their final match of a three-fight series on Saturday night in Atlantic City, N.J.
Ward (38-12) is to retire after the 10-round bout, the climax of a classic matchup between two of boxing's most entertaining brawlers. "We both golf
and we'll definitely hook up and play," Gatti (35-6), a Montreal native who fights out of New Jersey, said on a conference call on Tuesday. "We'll
"I want to introduce him to all my family. That's the kind of guy he is."
"He's good people," Ward said later during the same call. "I'm not afraid to respect a guy and fight him.
"Some people say you can't fight a guy and like him. That's bull. He's a golfer and so am I, so we'll just continue it on the golf course. Er. . . I
don't mean we'll be brawling on the golf course."
A sellout crowd of more than 12,000 is anticipated at Boardwalk Hall for the bout, which the 31-year-old Gatti enters as the heavy favourite.
In their first meeting on May 19, 2002, Ward won a surprise split decision after knocking Gatti down in the ninth round.
Gatti dominated the rematch in November, flooring Ward with an overhand right in the third en route to a unanimous decision.
Critics raved at the intensity and, at times, shear savagery of the fights and the U.S. network HBO couldn't wait to show Gatti-Ward III.
Both promised to do more boxing and less brawling in the rubber match, although once in the ring, they'll each have to rein in the urge to stand
toe-to-toe and trade blows.
Gatti resisted that urge in their last meeting and overwhelmed Ward. He credited better conditioning under trainer Buddy McGirt, including a heavy
regimen of running and weight training.
"When you get in trouble and you start getting tired, that's when you start brawling," said Gatti. "It's easy - you just stand there and throw
"I know I'm a hard puncher and that I can take a punch and that's when I start throwing bombs. But that's not going to happen anymore. My mind is
clear. I listen to my corner and do what I have to do."
Gatti, the former IBF lightweight champ, has designs on undisputed 140-pound champion Kostya Tszyu and knows he needs technique and strategy to set up
his still nasty knockout punch.
And he's not concerned about giving up the face-first style that made him one of the world's most popular fighters.
"With me, you never know when the bomb's going to drop and that's why the fans are on the edge of their seats," said Gatti.
McGirt convinced Gatti he could have it both ways.
"When he goes for the one-punch knockouts, the crowd loves it and he has a tendency to get caught up in it," said McGirt. "But when you show the crowd
that you can box and still punch, they love it even more.
"And it's better for Arturo. He always said that when he's finished, he wants to be able to say his ABC's."
Ward also plans to be less reckless.
"I trained hard," he said. "I'm not going to fight that same stupid fight as last time - coming in with my hands over my head and taking punches.
"I have to get that slugger mentality out of my mind, but that's hard to do. I've been doing it my whole career. I can't promise anything, but that's
what I have to do."
Ward has won many fans with a blue-collar personality that is more than mere image. Between fights, he drives a steamroller on highway paving jobs in
"I'll take time off after the fight, but then I'll go back to that," Ward said in his thick Massachusetts accent. "It's a job.
"It's great to have a seven-figure pay day (from the fight), but you can't just sit on that. I don't really see the money. There's a guy who invests
it for me and hopefully, I'll be able to retire early."
Gatti is far from hanging up the gloves.
Ranked as the No. 3 contender by the WBC, he wants a title, although he won't accept a fight with Tszyu for anything less than an even split of what
would likely be a multimillion-dollar purse.