This Week In Boxing: The Thrilla in Hampton Beach

Not often does a fight that aired live on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights make the cut for our “This Week In Boxing” not often does a fight that takes place in a place called Hampton Beach, New Hampshire remembered on our “This Week In Boxing”. However, what happened on Friday the 13th, in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, and aired on ESPN2 17 years ago this week will never be forgotten. Micky Ward and Emanuel Augustus went to war on that now famous summers night.

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Micky Ward was fighting just a short drive from his hometown of Lowell Mass. clearly the crowd favorite, the now legendary Micky Ward had compiled a less than sensational record of 36-10. Ward and his fan-friendly style became a fixture on ESPN in the 90’s, at 36 and countless life and death all-action bloodbaths Ward was somehow just coming into his own. His last three fights were perhaps his most impressive of his career. A win over Shea Neary a loss to Antonio Diaz, in an all-action fight that most thought he won, and a first-round KO over Steve Quinonez. This lead up to his showdown against Augustus who was supposed to be tailor-made for Ward. A tough come forward fighter that would test Ward give us an entertaining fight but ultimately come up short and be stopped by the hometown hero. Augustus who was used to being the B-side, the opponent had very different plans. Augustus had an even less impressive of 27-17-4. He was coming off a loss to a young ” Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather and followed that up with two stoppage victories over lesser named opposition to get himself ready for the Ward showdown.

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The fight between the two fringe contenders was set for July, 13th 2001 and it far exceeded any possible expectations. Both men came to fight. Nothing more, nothing less. As round one began, it was Ward that came out swinging. His punches were definitely the ones that carried more power.  As sizzling as the action was in the first few rounds, the fight actually got better as we progressed. Ward dominated early with harder punches and activity. In round two,  Augustus switched the tempo showing off the hand speed and brilliant combination punching landing off the back foot and coming forward. Augustus showed tremendous conditioning, going back and forth between boxer and slugger. By round three the relentless pace of the fight was beginning to take its toll on the face of each fighter a furious exchange at the end of the round set the standard of what we were going to see for the rest of the fight, as long as it lasted. Augustus seized controls first establishing his uppercut and catching the attention of Ward several times. Micky begins to fade as Emanuel becomes more and more confident and starts to take over a bit. Ward is being opened up on early in the fifth and looks like he may be stopped but as only Micky Ward can he somehow turned the tide in the second half of the round, with one wild punch after another landing on the button, backing his opponent up and driving him to the ropes and teeing off on the shocked Augustus. As the round ends Teddy Atlas hollers “We’re not in Manila but this is the Thrilla in Hampton Beach. This is unbelievable!”

Both commentator’s scorecards show a draw through six rounds. Augustus experience and skill is definitely carrying him through, as ward just keeps firing. That’s how the last four rounds would play out. Augustus attempting to box but being drawn into a slugfest with varying degrees of success. At one point, Burton lands close to ten punches in a row on Micky and each time Micky would get his Irish up and fire back and each round would ends in a “Bombs away” fashion with Ward typically getting the better in those heated exchanges to close out the rounds. The final three rounds were fought in the imaginary phone booth Augustus landed a lot, of clean shots but the harder shots, the shots with a little extra left on them were landed by Ward, and closing out the last three rounds is what earned Ward the unanimous decision. Not often do to fringe contenders who are past their physical primes, each with double-digit losses produces the fight of the year. But that’s exactly what happened in thNew Hampshire as both Irish Micky Ward and Emanuele Augustus lifted their legacy as tough guys to new levels.

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In essence, this was a fight between two starving artists both trying to display their art for a career-changing moment. They both got that in a sense being in a “Fight Of The year” fight that is never forgotten, but it was the Massachusettes native that won in and out of the ring, getting the decision and despite a mediocre skill set has been elevated to legendary status due to fights like this and his trilogy with Artur Gatti. Augustus is well remembered as well, well known in the boxing community for the Ward fight as well as being as per Floyd Mayweather “The toughest guy I ever faced” Augustus has a legacy that isn’t as well known nationwide as Ward but among fight fans, he has a reputation of a tough guy as a fighter who fought everyone and fought everyone tough. Including Jesus Chaves, Ivan Robinson, Mayweather, as well as his last three fights, in the following order, he fought Ruslan Provondnikoc, Charles Hatley, Vernon Paris and fought them at every advanced age. Despite his 34 losses, Augustus was stopped just five times.

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