Whenever “Irish” Micky Ward is announced at fights, he usually receives the largest ovation from his army of adoring fans.
Everybody in boxing – boxers, promoters, managers, trainers, media, etc. – respect the tough Irish American from Lowell, Massachusetts, for his guts, attitude, and dedication to his craft. Never has a negative comment come out of his mouth about an opponent of fellow boxer. He never trashed talked and showed nothing but the utmost respect for his “boxing brothers.”
Ward simply wasn’t made that way and that’s why he is clearly one of boxing’s most beloved warriors.
Ward’s first boxing match was at the age of 7, when he was matched against Joey Roach, the brother of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. He doesn’t remember the final result, but it signaled the start of his boxing career, as well as the intense passion he had that lasted until he retired from the ring in 2003. The memories he left are still watched over and over, particularly his epic trilogy with Arturo Gatti.
Many of Ward’s friends and relatives, especially his brother Dicky Eklund, who later became his head trainer, turned Micky onto the “Sweet Science.” Lowell has been the amateur boxing epicenter for the past 75-plus years. New England’s Central Golden Gloves Tournament is annually held there, as well as the New England Tournament of Champions (open and novice finals of N.E. Golden Gloves competition).
Ward captured three N.E. Golden Gloves titles, amassed an approximate 62-10 amateur record, and trained in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1983 at the USA Nationals, where he met a young boxer there named Mike Tyson.
“We were taught respect,” Ward spoke about his amateur boxing experiences. We learned the system and we were around a lot of teammates from different ethnic groups. We were family!”
To this day he is a boxing celebrity, consistently attending the N.E. Golden Gloves, in addition to other amateur and pro boxing shows in N.E. As a proud USA Boxing alumni member, he has attended and supported many of its events. He never turns down a request for an autograph or picture, and he has spoken at several alumni gatherings and events.
“Micky’s name rings out throughout the boxing community due to the heart he displayed in the ring,” said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. “But his character and bravery were established early in his amateur career, and it was his experiences as an amateur in Lowell that laid the foundation for a career that reached extraordinary heights.”
Ward made his pro debut June 13, 1985, stopping David Morin in the opening round. He won his first 14 pro fights and then faced years of adversity, fighting bigger, more experienced opponents on a steady basis.
Throughout his 18-year pro career, he always fought as a junior welterweight, even at the end of his amazing career, which was the epic Gatti-Ward Trilogy. Along the way to his dramatic showdowns with Gatti, Ward defeated previously undefeated New Englander Louis Veader (twice), followed by his sensational come-from-behind knockout of 16-0 Alfonso Sanchez in a fight Micky was badly losing on national television, and his electrifying eighth-round stoppage of 22-0 Shea Neary for the World Boxing Union title. Multiple World title holder Zab Judah credits Ward as the toughest opponent of his career, not Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Zudah won a 12-round unanimous decision for the interim USBA crown.
Make no mistake, though, it was the Gatti trilogy that altered his career and life. In Gatti-Ward II, after Micky had upset Gatti in their first encounter, Ward became the first boxer with double-digit losses (11) to earn a $1-million purse.
Ward has had an acclaimed movie (The Fighter) made about him, in which fellow Bay Stater Mark Wahlberg played him, leading to Micky’s appearance at the Academy Awards. He also has two books, two songs and a video game about him.
Why? Despite not being an Olympian or major World champion, Micky Ward was what he calls an “honest fighter” and one of boxing’s most beloved ring warriors.