By Keith Idec
Retired referee Frank Cappuccino provided one of several laugh-out-loud moments during “The Tale of Gatti-Ward,” the latest installment in HBO’s “Legendary Nights” series.
While discussing the incredible ninth round of the first fight between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, Cappuccino candidly explained his decision to let the unbelievable brutality continue.
“I would’ve got killed if I stopped that fight,” Cappuccino said during the documentary, scheduled to debut Saturday night on HBO. “They’d have ruined me. ‘Oh Jesus, Frank Cappuccino, he really shitted out the place.’ You know?”
Gatti got up somehow from a perfectly placed, paralyzing left hook to body from Ward that dropped the late legend just 15 seconds into the ninth round. Ward didn’t think Gatti would get back to his feet before Cappuccino counted to 10, let alone start teeing off on him again in what’s widely viewed as one of the most entertaining encounters in boxing history.
Despite Gatti’s courageous comeback, the equally resilient Ward thought the fight would be stopped following the ninth round, too.
“I thought they were going to stop it at the end of the ninth,” Ward recalled. “I thought someone [waved an end to the fight]. So I was like, ‘Oh! Thank God. The fight’s over.’ I’m like, ‘Jesus Christ.’ I’m like, ‘Oh man. Yeah! It’s over.’ [Cappuccino says], ‘No, no, no, no. The fight’s not over. Get back in your corner.’ I go, ‘You son of a bitch.’ ”
Ward won a majority decision that unforgettable night in Uncasville, Conn. He lost his second and third 10-round fights against Gatti by unanimous decision, but they formed an unbreakable bond during their thrilling trilogy and became close friends after it ended in June 2003.
Their relationship is a central theme in “The Tale of Gatti-Ward,” which was narrated by Mark Wahlberg, who played Ward in the Academy Award-winning movie, “The Fighter.” The 75-minute documentary also examines Gatti’s mysterious July 2009 death in Brazil.
It includes interviews with Ward, his wife, Charlene Ward; Boston Herald sports columnist Ron Borges; Lou DiBella, Ward’s promoter; Kathy Duva, whose company, Main Events, promoted Gatti throughout his career; Dicky Eklund, Ward’s brother/trainer; HBO commentators Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant; Pat Lynch, Gatti’s career-long manager; Buddy McGirt, Gatti’s trainer; and late referee Earl Morton, who officiated their second and third fights.
“The Tale of Gatti-Ward” will premiere Saturday night at midnight (ET/PT) on HBO, after a replay of the Timothy Bradley-Juan Manuel Marquez welterweight title fight and the live broadcast of a junior welterweight championship match between Denver’s Mike Alvarado (34-1, 23 KOs) and Russia’s Ruslan Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KOs) from Broomfield, Colo. (9:45 p.m. ET/PT).
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.