SKOWHEGAN — “Irish” Micky Ward is 51 now. He hasn’t fought in 14 years, but he’s still as working class as he was when he was a world champion.

“Right now doing construction. I’m paving, putting concrete down,” Ward, a native of Lowell, Massachusetts, said. Ward was at the Skowhegan Rec Center on Saturday night, as the guest of West Forks boxer Brandon Berry.

Berry is recovering from shoulder surgery and unable to fight, but he organized a show of amateur and professional boxing in Skowhegan. It was four years ago, down the road at Skowhegan Area High School, where Berry made his professional debut.

“I talked to Brandon not too long ago, and he asked me if I could come up and see him and support the show. Anything to help a young promoter coming up. I’m all for it,” Ward said. “It’s good to have somebody like Brandon, who’s young, in the game. Hopefully, he’ll keep it going for a while.”

If somebody asks, “Who is Micky Ward,” the best answer is “Did you see the movie, ‘The Fighter’?” The movie, starring Mark Wahlberg as Ward, was released in 2010. Christian Bale was a Best Supporting Oscar for his portrayal of Ward’s brother, Dicky Eklund. At home in Lowell, and by extension, Massachusetts, Ward is a living symbol of hard work. The band Dropkick Murphys wrote a song about him, simply and aptly titled “The Warrior’s Code.”

An hour before the fights were scheduled to begin, Ward was eager to see the amateurs take the ring. His advice for them was simple.

“If you’re going to do it, give it 110 percent. If you don’t, it’s not a good thing. You could get hurt in there. It’s a serious sport. You win the fight in the gym. You’ve got to train. If you’re not willing to do that, then you ought to stay home,” Ward said.

Hustle was Ward’s calling card throughout his career.

“That was my thing. I might’ve lost fights, but I never lost because I was out of shape,” Ward said.

When boxing fans think of Micky Ward, they think of a fighter who never took a round off. And they think of the three fights at the end of his career that came to define it.

It was at the end of his boxing career when Ward cemented his legacy in the sport, in three fights against Arturo Gatti. Ward-Gatti I was fought on May 18, 2002, and many who watched it call it the best fight they’ve ever seen. In the ninth round alone, Ward and Gatti exchanged enough punches to fill an entire bout. There was nothing fancy about round 9. It was boxing at its most simple and most brutal, and Ward smiles a little when he talks about it.

To Ward, the Ninth Round was a lost opportunity. He knocked Gatti down early, and as the referee counted, Ward said to himself “Don’t get up. Don’t get up.”

To the eternal gratitude of fight fans across the world, Gatti got up.

“I dropped him at the beginning. I got a little winded and he came back a little bit. It looked like he was hurting me, but he wasn’t,” Ward said. “I didn’t even know how special it was until it was over and people said it. You watch it over and over, but being in there, you just care about the fight.”

Gatti won each of the rematches. Ward returned the favor by getting up after a vicious Gatti punch in the third round of the first rematch, a punch Gatti later called the hardest he ever threw. Ward retired after the second rematch, another decision win for Gatti.

Liam Keefe, 16, fights out of O’Leary’s Gym in Waterville. Keefe took a break from his fight prep to meet Ward.

“I watched his fights on YouTube. He’s a great fighter. He’s my favorite fighter. He’s from Mass. I’m from Mass. He’s Irish, I’m Irish,” Keefe said.

In his pro career, Ward was 38-13, with 27 knockouts. It’s obvious Ward still connects with fans.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM