|Thornton & Ward (courtesy: Eric Murray) |
“It’s funny. I never thought I’d be here,” said Ward, the former WBU Light Welterweight champion.
“It’s kind of surreal, but I’ll take it. I’d rather have them cheering for me than against me,” he joked.
Ward began his professional career 14-0 and retired with a 38-13 record. He was recognized in Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year” three consecutive times, and his 2001 battle with Arturo Gatti has been acclaimed by boxing experts and fans “Fight of the Century.”
Despite his decorated boxing career, Ward has various ties to hockey as well, including Boston Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton
, who attended the premiere of “The Fighter” as a guest of Ward’s.
“I’m happy he’s finally getting to drop the puck. He’s getting the notoriety; it’s much deserved around here,” said Thornton.
A long-time Bruins fan, Ward especially enjoyed attending the Bruins/Habs game on Wednesday at the Garden, an arena he’s fought in himself.
“I loved it. I was into it, big-time. And it’s not just because of the fights. It was a good game. They were up, Bruins were up, then they came back. It was a seesaw battle, and that’s what I liked about it.
"And also the fights,” Ward added with a smil.
Thornton, a frequent fighter with 13 fighting majors this season, holds Ward in high regard.
“I definitely have a ton of respect for him," said Thornton. "I go out and I have to fight twenty times a year, but I only have to do it for a minute or so.
"He’s in there for twelve, three-minute rounds with a minute rest in between.”
Likewise, Ward acknowledged the difficulty of fighting on the ice.
“On skates, Shawn would kill me," he said. "It’s hard because you got to balance and you pretty much got one hand because you grab them with the other hand.
"It’s kind of hard to stand there and square off.
“Skating is tough. Backwards, forwards, sideways. Like I said, I have one speed. Fast and that’s it. Fast and down,” said Ward.
However, Ward’s intimidating resume and hard exterior may be slightly misleading.
“Honestly he’s a very mild-mannered, nice, soft-spoken, polite guy. He’s one of the nicer guys I’ve ever met,” said Thornton. “You wouldn’t think that he’s the type of guy to go in and get punched in the face for twelve rounds straight.”---Lindsey Schmidt