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Ward recalls 2001 'Fight of the Year' clearly

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 19. 2018 10:40PM

As the fight entered the seventh round, perhaps no one in the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom was more nervous than Bobby Stephen, the chairman of the New Hampshire boxing commission.

Stephen checked the scorecards after the sixth round and knew that Micky Ward was trailing Emanuel Augustus (then Emanuel Burton) in the fight. He also knew the building was filled with fans from Lowell, Mass. — Ward’s hometown — that night, and they weren’t going to be in a good mood if Ward didn’t win.

“The Hampton Beach Casino was packed,” Stephen said. “Micky had quite a contingent.

“Going into the sixth round I checked the scorecards and all three judges had him losing that fight. With all the Irishmen there I thought, ‘We’re going to have a riot.’”

Helped by a ninth-round knockdown, Ward rallied to win an action-packed 10-round unanimous decision in that welterweight bout, which was televised live by ESPN and was later selected as the 2001 Fight of the Year by The Ring magazine.

What does Ward remember about that fight?

“Just how tough he (Augustus) was,” Ward recalled Monday. “How much better he was than his record. He didn’t have a losing record, but he had a lot of losses. It was tough. He was way, way better than I expected.”

Ward and Augustus will reunite tonight (6) at a USA Boxing Alumni Association event at The Shaskeen Pub & Restaurant in Manchester. Steve Smoger, who was the referee for the Ward/Augustus fight, will also be in attendance tonight.

Ward, Augustus and Smoger are also expected to attend Wednesday night’s USA vs. Ireland Northeast Boxing tour finale at the Manchester Downtown Hotel. Tickets for the 12-bout card are $20 for general admission and $30 for ringside seats, and can be purchased through the Seacoast Ticket Agency (

The boxing card is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will serve as a fund-raiser for the Manchester PAL Boxing Club.

“We need programs like (the PAL Boxing Club) to keep kids off the street,” Stephen said. “They need the benefits of events like this to train the kids and feed them.”

Ward’s victory over Augustus helped set up the first of his three fights against Arturo Gatti. He said he has seen Augustus only once since the night they met in the ring.

“It could have gone either way,” said Ward, who still lives in Lowell. “The whole way through was close. I think the knockdown was the difference.”

It’s unlikely anyone left the Casino Ballroom that evening feeling like they were shortchanged.

“What a fight,” Stephen said. “(Augustus) was sensational that night. It’s the best fight we’ve ever had in New Hampshire. I can attest to that.”

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