It's been a long time since we've seen HBO put together one of their Legendary Nights documentaries – too long, in fact. A decade ago, HBO's premiered the series to critical acclaim, but never followed up. Also a decade ago, Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti had the final of their three epic fights. So why not tie in the rejuvenation of Legendary Nights by featuring that trilogy?
The Tale of Gatti-Ward is the result of that rejuvenation, and it's a fantastic documentary. The film looks at the three fights between the two men and the friendship that grew out of their brawls. The format is also pretty unique and interesting, as it fills the gaps between the fights with footage of Ward at Gatti's induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. Interviews with nearly all of the relevant people to the story were conducted, including Ward, long-time HBO commentators Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant, former Gatti manager Pat Lynch, and former Gatti trainer Buddy McGirt.
While discussing the fights, the interviewees are watching the fights on an iPad, bringing memories of the legendary battles back into their minds. The insight is excellent, and even someone not familiar with the fights can get sucked in to the drama, even in the brief chunks of the fights that HBO shows.
The documentary picks up shortly after where The Fighter left off. A major criticism of that film was that it didn't touch on Ward's fights with Gatti. This documentary is almost solely focused on those fights and their effects on both men. The documentary is narrated by Mark Wahlberg, who played Ward in the film.
The relationship between the two, which included Ward entering as part of Gatti's entourage and training him for his final career fight, is also examined in detail. But all of the particulars involved worried about Gatti's lifestyle outside of the ring, and there was almost a sense of impending doom leading into the portion of the documentary that covered his death.
The present-day footage at the induction ceremony is heartbreaking. Gatti's death (which is still officially listed as a suicide, much to the chagrin of everyone who knew him) is talked about near the end of the documentary, and the emotion shown by those getting interviewed is raw and powerful. Perhaps the most moving is Gatti's young daughter being lifted up and reading his freshly minted Hall of Fame plaque. It's just crushing to realize that she'll never be able to have a long-lasting relationship with her father and will never grow up knowing the man that captivated so many during his life.
Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti-Ward will air on Saturday, October 19th at midnight on HBO following the World Championship Boxing card featuring a main event of Mike Alvarado vs Ruslan Provodnikov. If you're a fan of the sweet science, you owe it to yourself to give this a watch. And if you're not a boxing fan, but you love great documentaries, you should tune in as well.