JakeBy Jake Donovan
A decade after featuring 12 of the most memorable boxing stories it had to offer, HBO is prepared to go at least one more round in resurrecting its Legendary Nights series.
The network issued a release Tuesday afternoon announcing the start of production for a forthcoming edition surrounding the unforgettable trilogy between the late Arturo Gatti and friendly rival Micky Ward. Their three fights in 2002 and 2003 featured more than its share of drama, knockdowns, broken bones and blood shed to the joy of audiences in attendance and at home watching HBO.
A full decade will have passed by since the last entry. The timing coincides with Gatti’s posthumous enshrinement into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, marking the perfect occasion for the self-proclaimed Network of Champions to bring back its well-received series.
“With June 2013 marking the tenth anniversary of the third fight of the landmark Gatti vs. Ward trilogy, we believe now is the ideal moment to revisit this classic rivalry,” said Ken Hershman, president, HBO Sports, in a statement. “This retrospective will offer new perspectives and deliver revealing insights on the two ring warriors who produced this all-time great moment in boxing history.
“We plan to present the special on a night with a major fight on HBO, ensuring a memorable night of boxing programming.”
‘Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti-Ward’ will feature HBO Sports’ acclaimed blend of new interviews and thrilling fight action, highlighted by previously unseen archival footage. All three fights aired live on HBO and featured the ringside commentary of Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and the late Emanuel Steward on the first and third fights. Lampley, Merchant and George Foreman called the second bout.
Their first encounter in May 2002 – which took place at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. - was honored by many entities, including the Boxing Writers Association of America, as Fight of the Year.
Ward managed a body shot knockdown in a 9th round that ranks among the very best in boxing history. His dominance in the round paved the way for a disputed split decision win, his only victory in the series and its only entry to have taken place in New England (Ward hails from Lowell, Mass.).
The second and third fights went a long way towards defining Gatti’s legacy and his impact on the Atlantic City boxing scene. Gatti floored Ward in the second fight in Nov. 2002, the least exciting or competitive of the three entries, but still well worth repeat viewings.
Both the rematch and rubber match took place in front of sold out crowds at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Gatti was dominant in the third fight, save for a broken hand and a knockdown to create for high drama, but did enough to take a well-deserved decision and two out of three in the series.
Ward never fought again after the third fight, announcing his retirement and resurfacing as part of Gatti’s entourage. He was in the corner for Gatti’s next fight, a vacant 140 lb. title win over Gianluca Branco in Jan. ’04. Ward assumed the same role for the very last fight of Gatti’s career, a humbling knockout loss to Alfonso Gomez in July ’07.
Gatti managed just four wins in his final seven fights following the series tiebreaker against Ward. The three losses came in the last four bouts of his wildly popular career, which ended two years prior to his tragic death in July ’09.
Overall, Gatti appeared 21 times on HBO, while Ward enjoyed six appearances – the three fights with Gatti, his dramatic knockout win over Shea Neary, and losses to Antonio Diaz and Jesse James Leija.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox