By Jon ‘OC’ O’Connor
Dateline: September 11, 2018, Edith Nourse Rogers VA, Bedford, MA.
This story has nothing to do with getting knocked down, either literally or figuratively. It has everything to do with getting up time after time, never quitting.
“Irish” Mickey Ward epitomizes a hard work ethic and the persistence to never give up. A 2010 major motion picture documentary about Ward starred Mark Wahlberg as the Lowell native proves it.
A local, national, and international renowned boxer, Mickey Ward patiently greeted each Veteran in the long line with a big smile and handshake. Tuesday’s event continued a very successful streak of bringing a long line of popular celebrities to the Bedford VA to meet and support our Vets.
There could be no better image than having Mickey as an example of overcoming adversity.
Mickey, who had won three New England Golden Gloves titles as an amateur before turning Pro experienced the ever challenging dynamics of a blue-collar family growing up in Lowell. He strived to escape the shadows of his older brother’s relative boxing fame, detrimental alcohol and drug influences, a family with nine siblings and an incarcerated father. Noting an interesting similarity with actor Wahlberg, Mark grew up in a blue-collar family with nine siblings, and Mark’s dad had also been imprisoned with Mickey’s dad George.
In the third round of an untitled rematch of his first battle with Arturo Gatti on November 23, 2002, “Irish” Mickey Ward lay on the canvas. Six, seven, eight… No one expected Ward to get up after that blow, certainly not Gatti, who threw the devastating punch which he later called “the hardest punch I ever landed.” Yet Ward did get back up. During the first of a trilogy of fights, Mickey dropped Gatti to the canvas and won the fight by a majority decision. Ring Magazine went on to name it The Fight of The Year. Boxing writers and fans all over the world salute that first fight as The Fight of the Century.
When asked about visiting the Bedford VA, Mickey said: “I love doing this for our Vets… my Uncle Timmy lives here, I could never show how proud I am of these guys and gals who served”. Uncle Timmy O’Neil is a US Navy Veteran who served as a radar operator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp during the Vietnam War.
Building 4, Floor Supervisor, Karen Harkins, jubilantly explained how “each of the Vets watched and waited to have their photos taken and receive an autographed picture of Mickey; they were all very happy”. And now they know about the three fight trilogy between Arturo Gatti and hometown hero Mickey Ward.
Mickey’s visit to the Bedford VA definitely adds another “win” in his column, one his fans will remember well, along with his legacy of never giving up. For a century now the Bedford VA has saluted, supported and cared for our Veterans. Veterans who stood up to answer their country’s call.
Thank you “Irish” Mickey Ward, thank you to all those dedicated caregivers and administrators at our VA, and thank you to the legacy of all of our Veterans who have served and continue to serve, while diligently fighting adversity keeping our liberties and freedoms strong.