Micky Ward, The ‘Fighter,’ Donates His Well-Boxed Brain

Published December 16, 2010

BU Today reports Micky Ward — the former pugilist from Lowell depicted in “The Fighter” biopic — has pledged his brain and spinal column after death to a university center that studies long-term brain trauma among athletes.

Ward makes the donation to BU’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The boxer is also participating in a long-term study while alive.

According to the center’s website, CTE is a degenerative brain disease found in people — mostly athletes, and most often, boxers — who’ve suffered multiple concussions. Some refer to CTE as dementia pugilistica, or “punch drunk syndrome.”

“They say that when you get dazed, that’s a minor concussion,” Ward told BU Today. “I used to get those all the time.”

If you watched Ward fight, it’s not surprising. Here’s how SI’s Franz Lidz opened his piece on the 2003 final match of the fan favorite — and famously brutal — Ward-Arturo Gatti trilogy:

Like some relic from the era of bare-knuckle brawling, the bout between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward last Saturday night in Atlantic City was breathtaking in its brutality: two iron-faced pugs with iron wills, trying to beat each other’s brains out.

With Ward joining hundreds of other former athletes in pledging to donate, the BU center says it can “determine specific risk factors for CTE and potentially develop effective treatments.”

It’s not Ward’s first foray into the cause. In April, he appeared at the State House to push for a bill to raise awareness of head injuries to young athletes. And while it’s hard to imagine Ward fighting differently, he told BU that knowing what he knows now, “he would not have allowed as much head contact when he sparred” and encourages fighters to be more assertive in seeking medical attention.

Earlier CSTE Coverage: