Tissues were needed during Wednesday night's screening of "Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti-Ward" at HBO's headquarters in Manhattan.
For me, the tears started to fall during footage of Arturo Gatti's daughter Sofia reading off the plaque honoring her dad, the late brawler extraordinaire who made the International Boxing Hall of Fame this past summer. But to give the idea that the production, directed by the head of HBO's "24/7" series, Bentley Weiner, evoked nothing but water works wouldn't be just.
Micky Ward, the Lowell, Mass. pugilist who fought past his prime, leaped off the screen and into your heart with his guileless presentation of the majestic rivalry and unlikely friendship he endured with "The Human Highlight Film," who died in 2009, at age 37, under murky circumstances in a rented room in Brazil.
Gatti too had heard the call to pack it in, after he was manhandled by Oscar De La Hoya in 2001, but he wasn't built to quit. He signed on to meet Ward on May 18, 2002, at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. HBO televised the fight, which most expected to be a rumble between two fighters who were on everyone's pound-for-pound list for heart and guts, if not technical wizardry. The film shows excerpts from that classic for the ages, won by Ward, as well as portions from their subsequent clashes, both won by Gatti. Even if you're versed in the stories, you can expect to get chills down the proverbial spine, as I did, when tuning in to HBO on Saturday night, when the film premieres.
"I love the film," Ward told NYFightblog. "It was very emotional for me but it was about the friendship, the love we had for each other."
Ward, now 48, said he thinks about Arturo every day. I asked Ward if he could try and explain how a friendship could be forged by two men who sought to knock each others' head of for 30 rounds in three fights.
"It's respect," he said. "I wanted to beat him so bad, he wanted to beat me so bad, but it's mutual respect."
I hate to contest anything the humble warrior Ward said, but I have to take issue with his declaration that, "Me, you, your wife, we all have the same size heart."
No, sir, as Ward proved in the ring, and in this film. He and Arturo's cardiac portion size is in another league.
Readers, you will find yourself watching the film and thanking those two men for their service in entertaining us, and providing us fuel during moments in our own lives when we felt like we were fighting off the ropes in a losing battle.
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