|OTHER IRISH BOXING ARTICLES FROM WGT:
PART 2: QUITTING 'NOT AN OPTION'
By Mark Connor / TheWildGeese.com
|Bob Halloran recounts
Micky Ward's fall ... and rise.
Lowell police officer Mickey O'Keefe trained Ward when his father and brother were both in prison. An accomplished amateur coach, O'Keefe's only professional experience was assisting Dicky a couple of times in Ward's corner.
"He and O'Keefe were both tough, hard-working, hard-drinking Irish guys who had managed to stare into the bowels of Lowell and walk away from the precipice with good clean hearts," Halloran writes in "Irish Thunder." O'Keefe's own sobriety and fatherly concern were the supports Ward needed to foster his focus, talent and determination at the time.
"Micky's story is unique in the respect that he was able to come back and humble himself, which is one of my favorite parts," Halloran says. For two years, Ward fought in small venues for little money before getting fights on the level he'd previously reached. After eight consecutive victories, LoNano insisted O'Keefe leave, replacing him with another trainer, and Eklund eventually returned to the corner after emerging from prison.
"O'Keefe did not hold it against Ward for making the decision because it was professionally necessary to get the opportunities," Halloran says.
|Photo courtesy of Bob Halloran
Micky Ward (left) and Mickey O'Keefe
O'Keefe's Irish-American pedigree reinforces a sense of Irish omnipresence in the boxing world, as well as in law enforcement, two defining professions for the Irish in exile. Whether their partnership reinforced Ward's Irish identity is open to conjecture, but, in Halloran's view, the "Irish" brand name that Micky Ward adopted certainly marked Micky as a fighter committed to a cause bigger than himself.
Halloran recalls that expert trainer Teddy Atlas, of partial Irish descent himself, told him that, in taking punishment, some fighters "mentally pack it in" while trying to go the distance, but others "continue to try to win while trailing. Micky was that kind of guy," Halloran explains, adding that it came "from his background in boxing and the pride of knowing you can't quit, (that) it's not an option."
Ward's final fight, a 2003 10-round, unanimous-decision loss to Arturo Gatti, a former world light-welterweight champion, was the last in a series of three between the two boxers. The first of their matches, in May 2002, ended in a majority decision for Ward, who lost their second fight, in Nov. 2002, by the same margin that he lost their final match. The series sealed Ward's reputation in boxing and grossed just over $3 million for him, which he has seemingly invested well. They were epic wars that thrilled boxing experts and casual fans alike, boldly underscoring Ward's character and tenacity.
"I always try to tell people that those three fights you saw against Gatti, he had about seven other fights just like that against guys" who were world-class boxers, Halloran says.
Amy Adams as Charlene Ward.
Ward now holds a Teamsters book, moving film sets near his native Lowell, where he resides with Charlene in a modest home in The Acre. His lack of a world title keeps him out of an exclusive Irish-American club that includes iconic heavyweight champions Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, as well as Seán O'Grady, a former lightweight champion from the 1980s. But Ward's extraordinary skills and pluck are now on display for millions on movie screens worldwide, reinforcing the "Irish brand."
Ward's saga suggests that Irish contenders in the ring lead with their hearts as much as their fists. In doing so, they generate the kind of adulation fight fans typically reserve for champions. Mother Ireland would be proud. WGT
This feature was edited by Gerry Regan and Doug Chandler, and produced by Joe Gannon.
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Connor and GAR Media LLC. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed without prior permission from the author. Direct questions about permissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.