March 15, 2000
For 22 straight fights, Shea Neary 31 of Liverpool, England had always
found a way to win. Through thick and thin, Neary, rated 7th by the CBZ had
always seemed to carry the luck of the Irish in such previous slugfests with
Andy Holligan and Darryl Tyson. His luck eventually ran out Saturday night
after eight grueling rounds when "Irish" Micky Ward of Lowell, MA pulverized
Neary and relieved him of his arduous attempt of retaining the WBU Jr.
Welterweight Title he once cherished. In what was supposed to be Neary's
breakthrough fight, Ward not only derailed the "Shamrock Express," he
replaced Neary's as a force in the 140-pound division.
Though both warriors were of different countries, the two engaged in an
Irish version of the recent Erick Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera battle,
except Ward left no doubt among the observers.
As early as the pre-fight staredown, you didn't need to be an avid fight
fan to know that their fight would be a battle for the ages. While British
Referee Mickey Vann informed the fighters of the rules, the two had gone
forehead to forehead. The psychological warfare at least had begun. Ward
decided to make a greater statement shortly after the bell rung to begin
their vicious battle. Ward began delivering his trademark left hook to the
body, a punch that seemed to strike fear in Neary, a concept he had never
Early on and throughout, the fight was waged right where they were
during their staredown. While they stood in close, Neary also tried to
deliver a body beating to Ward especially with his right hand. Ward on the
other hand stood his ground and held his hands high to catch Neary with
short uppercuts and to block some of Neary's wide punches.
Though the pitched battle was close, Ward appeared to be the fighter in
control even when he was momentarily rattled midway through the third round
by a right cross to the temple. Ward had switched to the southpaw stance to
avoid the right-hand body shots that were finding Ward's left rib cage.
Ward recovered quickly however as he took advantage of his antagonist
who emptied a good portion of his tank while following up with his right
"I could see his punches coming," said the new champion. "He was strong
and tough but I knew if I just stood there with him and banged him
downstairs, I'd be all set."
The banging Ward administered to Neary was so destructive in fact, Neary
would not only wither in pain from the explosive left hooks to the body, he
would shield his beaten sides with his arms allowing Ward ample room to land
ferocious uppercuts to the jaw.
The left hook to the body, left uppercut to the jaw happened to be the
combination that dropped Neary on the seat of his pants for the first time
in his career in the fateful eighth round. Relentless punching from the
opportunistic Ward ensued upon Neary's return to his feet as the ailing
Neary struggled to inhale oxygen and gain stability. After absorbing
meaningful uppercuts and hooks, Neary fell to the canvas again prompting
Mickey Vann to halt the contest.
Ward's triumphant victory not only replaced Neary's status among the
division's elite; it earned Ward a world title: a goal Ward had journeyed
for 15 years in professional boxing.
"It feels great right now, but it won't set in probably until the end of
the week," said the relieved winner.
Ward who has tangled with the division's best for over a decade
including a 12 rounder against current IBF Jr. Welterweight Champion, Zab
Judah of Brooklyn, NY is also in a position to appear on HBO against another
crowd-pleaser, Arturo Gatti.
"We don't know who we're gonna go after right now," said Ward. "Maybe
Gatti, it's just too soon after this fight to know who I'm gonna fight
On his walk to the ring, "Irish" Micky Ward entered the ring to the song
Here I Go Again by Whitesnake, not quite as representative of Neary's
entrance to an Irish Rovers tune. The lyrics go something like this: "Here I
go again on my own, going down the only road I've ever known..."
The lonely road that Ward has always known has been one that didn't
offer certain promise. With another memorable win Saturday, Ward's familiar
road has just switched lanes and the likes of Arturo Gatti will need to make
way for a wild Irish rover headed for stardom.