Manfredo, who was 13-0 at the time and have recently move down from middleweight to 154lbs, had no hesitation in helping out Ward who was reaching the end of his career with one last finale under the bright TV lights.
At 36, Ward had been through the rigours of an up and down career having lost several title fights until finally winning the WBU belt in London against Shea Neary two years prior to being offered the Gatti fight. Two victories and two defeats later, Ward was ready to bow out of the sport with one last paycheck against a 30 year-old Gatti who needed to impress in order to push towards another world title contest.
There wouldn’t have been many that could have predicted what would unfold that night at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, although Manfredo believes he saw glimpses of what transpired as he and Ward shared sessions together in the build-up.
“I remember going up to Lowell and from the first time we traded punches, to the very last time that I sparred Mickey, it was an all out back and forth war,” Manfredo explained to World Boxing News.
“I was a young up and comer who was looking to make a name for himself and he was a very hungry veteran looking for this opportunity for so long. One of the things that stands out to me and I remember clearly is how hard Micky trained for the fight with Gatti and how it inspired me. Right from the start I knew Mickey was ready for the fight. He was in excellent shape and very, very hungry.
“Even saying that though, I don’t think anyone expected to see what we all witnessed that night. I mean, I felt confident that he could win, but I never would have imagined the you hit me, I hit you type of blood and guts war that everybody witnessed as those two fought their hearts out.”
Although twelve years have since passed, the enthralling encounter is still widely regarded as the greatest fight of a generation and maybe of all time and Manfredo is convinced that the two warriors deserved the lions share of the credit for laying it all on the line, but also had plenty of praise for the third man in the ring that night as Ward took a majority verdict in setting up two legendary sequels.
“A lot comes into play for that type of fight,” said Manfredo. “Firstly, obviously you have two fighters that have the no quit attitude where they would have done anything to be the last man standing. But then you had in my own opinion one of the best referee’s in boxing in Mr Frank Cappuccino who let the fighters fight it out.
“Fighters like myself can only dream about that actually happening as it was the type of fight which everything came into play on that one night and obviously led to what everyone enjoyed so much.
“My one regret is that I did not attend the first fight and to this day I forget where I was when I watched it. I remember watching though and obviously had my fingers crossed for Mickey.”
Manfredo went on: “In my opinion, what I witnessed in that fight will never be duplicated by anyone. Those guys gave it their all that night as Micky and Arturo – through their styles and hearts made it a fight that will last forever. They were both made for each other and it was a privilege to have played some small part in helping Micky get the win.
“It happened to be the only fight I helped Mickey prepare for so it was extra special to me to see him with his arms raised at the end, plus, I also gained a friend for life.”
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