FanPost promoted by Scott, and we thank cyke for this excellent contribution to the site.
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The Twin River Casino becomes a viewing gallery of delightful oddities after you’ve adjusted yourself to see through the rank mist of cheap cigar smoke drifting lazily over a sea of machines that blink almost seizure inducing lights and emanate siren songs luring anyone willing to part with a few quarters. Everyone’s here. The retirees making it rain with their pensions, the high schoolers with an elevated level of cool for having the temerity to walk into the building, the quaking handed gambling addicts, bluehairs, the curious visitors, the regulars who’ve set aside a fixed amount for this form of entertainment and the lone players who have nothing else to do on a Friday night. Every conceivable cohort wearing NASCAR jackets, Sara Palin is teh kewl gear and freshly minted shirts from the mall is represented at those machines. Viewing the veritable zoo as you walk through the hall of slots makes every visit special.
There is a new group in town today. Their shirts are emblazoned with the names of boxing gyms and fight gear brands, laudatory messages about fighters with others looking like they’re out on a night at the theater. This is my crew. I’m with the boxing crowd that has made its way to netherworld Rhode Island. The venue normally plays host to club fighters, but has taken a step up with an ESPN2 televised card tonight. I make my way through the halls of slot machines and reach the staging area. I breathe in the carnival atmosphere of beer models, souvenir hawking roadies and blaring bad pop. An understated glamour is evident from the mounds of pert cleavage that pop out of necklines that go further south on every girl.
I am distracted from a train wreck of spray tanned expanse and straightened hair right out of the Jersey Shore reject file when I notice a small crowd of about 10 fawning over a beaming squat man. Another smaller group looks on in approval. Though deceptively short, the bulk of mass peeking through his shirt is evidence of something greater. The first thought through my head? "I can take this guy. Easy." I’m still unsure of who he is till I recognize the faint goatee and close cut hair from hundreds of wars. I desperately take back the thought of ever fighting him. He is Micky Ward.
Mr. Ward is one of the earliest fighters I remember watching. His fighting style was a hurricane of shots from every conceivable angle honed in on the head and body. Two shots were exchanged for one as he marched forward. It was the Irish guarantee that delivered without fail. Every time. The meaning of the word defense was lost somewhere in there. But that’s why we watched. He was who we wanted to be, a Ronin slicing everything in his path with little regard for his own well being. We all wish we could do that. Which is why I followed his career littered with Fight of the Year awards and accolades for his fights. His trademark left hook to the body that put down so many is the reason I preach the importance of body work to anyone who will listen. He was the hardy blue collar type who would throw down whenever required and always fought with the rumble of an approving crowd in the background. The epitome of a fighter who will perennially be on my top 5 list stood in front of me.
Facing someone you have yelled at through a TV screen and who embodied everything right with your passion was surprisingly less intimidating than I envisioned. "Excuse me, are you Micky Ward?" I said in my best attempt at not sounding like a 13 year old at a Backstreet Boys concert. He flashes me a "what do you think" kind of look. I ejaculate boilerplate prose reserved for occasions like this in an awkwardly unbroken sentence. "I’m a huge fan, love to see you fight, how’s the training working out, great to see you in town, what do you think of the card." He seems strangely amused for obviously having seen this before. "So can I get a picture with you? It would mean a lot." I ask brazenly. He nods his assent. I reach for my hip and am crushed as I come up with my flip phone, two generations removed from the sliding keypads, internet browsing gps and 6 mp flash cameras. I weakly open the shell and hand it to a bemused spectator and ask him to take a picture.
I lift my left fist in a fake show of bravado as the man figures out the settings. He hands it back to me a second later. I don’t look at it. "Thanks a lot man. I’ve always loved watching you fight. We need more guys like you," I say to Micky as he’s accosted by someone asking him to sign their copy of Irish Thunder. He moves on to the next fan and it’s over.
For a brief moment, I had transcended the barrier between screen and fighter by voicing a few choice platitudes. I had come into contact with all that was great with my sport and had evidence of it on my phone. I looked at it. The image looked as one taken in poor lighting on a bad phone would. But the outline of a warrior and fan are evident. I silently thanked the man for all he had done on so many Friday and Saturday nights. I flashed over the past two minutes and wondered if I could have stated my gratitude more eloquently. But he was gone leaving me with a shitty phone pic of that brief meeting.
The Micky Ward side of the equation