Gatti: Can he rebound yet again?

By Ramon Rodriguez


Gatti: Can he rebound yet again?

In sixteen years as a professional boxer, Arturo Gatti has demonstrated the art of resiliency. It’s an art all men boast of possessing, whether its true or not. But Gatti definitely has it -- that’s what makes someone like Gatti so endearing.

Gatti (40-8, 31 KOs) has seemingly accomplished everything in his lengthy career. He’s a two-division champion. He has the honor of being the active boxer that’s participated in the most Fights of the Year. He remains one of the few fighters that can sell-out arenas in a matter of hours, and one of the very few who are American.

But in the forty-eight fights of his career, Gatti has taxed his body and psyche with relentless fury. He has been knocked down numerous times throughout his career. He has had his face swollen and cut beyond recognition on more than one occasion. He has fractured his hands more times than anyone can keep count. He’s been dismissed as shot by fans and insiders perhaps more than any other fighter of this generation.

Yet, somehow, we can’t get enough of Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, even after we’ve butchered his name and reputation in articles and message boards. He's coming back for more, facing Alfonso Gomez in Atlantic City on July 14, 2007

In 1998, after losing to Angel Manfredy and Ivan Robinson twice, Gatti seemed no more than the proverbial afterthought. He was washed up some said. So what did Gatti do next? He won a string of fights impressively.

Then came a dissatisfying loss to Oscar de la Hoya in 2001, in which Gatti was simply overwhelmed by a bigger opponent. Even then, many questioned his dedication and once again he was considered washed up. So Gatti responded in kind by delivering a huge knockout win over ex-titlist Terronn Millett and then three riveting performances against Mickey Ward. He also went on to hand Leonard Dorin his first loss, while retiring Jesse James Leija.

But in 2005, Gatti was viciously beaten by Floyd Mayweather Jr. Months later, he would move up to welterweight and notch a win over Thomas Damgaard, but ultimately lose to Carlos Baldomir. How’s that for drama?

These up and downs are what Gatti has come to embody as a professional prize-fighter. Over the years, his career has continuously tread the fine line between triumph and disappointment, just like many of his bouts have juggled carnage, resiliency, valor, a touch of lunacy, and pure enchantment.

Which is why Gatti is still fighting at age thirty-five, even after his latest setback: the one-sided loss to Baldomir almost a year ago.

“I have nothing to prove to nobody but myself,” Gatti says. “I know I have a lot more left. It’s tough to walk away from something I love so much and know I can still do it at the level of competition I’m at right now.”

Insiders assumed Gatti would hang up the gloves after being dispatched handily by Baldomir, which is why there were more than a few who scratched their heads when it was announced Gatti would be returning to the ring. Still a welterweight.

Against name fighters in the welterweight division, Gatti has not yet made an impact the way he did in his days as a lightweight and jr. welterweight. Which is why many are unconvinced that after a year layoff, Gatti will be primed to face Alfonso Gomez on July 14 in Atlantic City. Baldomir’s victory over Gatti was that imposing.

Still, Gatti points to all the times he’s rebounded from tremendous setbacks to achieve the unexpected as proof that he’s still got it. Against Baldomir, he maintains, he just wasn’t feeling like himself. In his mind, that’s the only reason he lost the way he did.

“My last fight—I was down on myself very much. I knew inside my heart before walking into the ring I would have a horrible night but I had to go through with it,” Gatti says. “I think I burned myself out.”

Gatti is reserved when asked what burdened him so much in the lead up to his fight with Baldomir. Many assume his relationship with trainer Buddy McGirt soured, considering the two parted ways after the bout. Though Gatti does not deny that as the cause of his troubles, he clearly wants to stay away from the topic.

“I don’t want to talk about that. It’s out of my head. I feel good,” Gatti says. “In my heart, I’m a happier person. Everything’s going great for me in my personal life. I believe in myself again. I’m ready to fight again.”

It’s evident Gatti’s rejuvenated mentality comes from working extensively with his new trainer Mickey Ward. Since their astonishing trilogy, the two have established a strong friendship, which has aided Gatti in picking up with his career again.

“[Working with Mickey] is fun. He’s been pushing me like crazy. He’s not there to teach me how to fight—nobody can do that anymore. He’s a motivator. I take this sport very seriously. What’s great about Mickey is he’s a competitor just like I am,” Gatti says. “I needed a change. Change is not bad. When I changed from Hector Rocha to Buddy [McGirt], look what happened. Now I’m going to change to Mickey Ward. Something nice can happen again.”

Though Gatti has been preparing to fight the bigger Alfonso Gomez, recent talk of possibly facing Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has emerged over the last few weeks. Apparently, Top Rank would like to match the developing Chavez, who has recent been fighting at 154 pounds, against Gatti should he win versus Gomez. Gatti though, is keeping focused with the task at hand.

“I’m in no position to be looking ahead of Alfonso. He’s a young lion. He’s coming to win this fight and I know he’s training like an animal,” Gatti says. “I’m sure he’s in good shape but when you’re talking about hungry, I’m hungrier than he is. I’m just going to bring back the old Arturo with my boxing skill. I’m going to forget about brawling.”

That may sound incredulous to some considering Gatti has built his reputation as a tenacious fighter who never shies away from trading bombs with his opponent. Though Gatti has certainly not grown fearful by any means, he believes opting to box instead of brawl will serve him better since he is a smaller welterweight.

“I’m not going to worry about trying to be bigger than my opponent. I’m a little 147 pounder, but I’m very explosive,” says Gatti. “It doesn’t matter if guys are bigger than me, I’ll be faster.”

Over the years, Gatti has become Atlantic City’s local hero, mainly because he has always seemed eager to trade leather. On July 14, the raucous crowd at Boardwalk Hall will be expecting to witness another one of those Gatti performances. You know, the blood and guts type.

Gatti realizes Gomez, who many believe might one day replace him as the sport’s all-action fighter, may oblige him to exchange heavy blows. Gatti though says he’s sticking to his blueprint for this particular bout.

“You make sure you’re not going to brawl when you practice. If I box on the bag, I’m going to box in the fight. If I brawl in sparring, that’s all I’m going to pick up,” Gatti says. “I saw highlights of him. He’s a good style for me. I got a lot to lose. He’s got a lot to gain, so I know he’s going to be very prepared.”

Until the night of the fight, the world will continue to speculate on whether Gatti should be retired or not. Gatti though has a few words for those who might think they know him better than he knows himself.

“I can’t wait till after this performance because a lot of people are going to have their foot in their mouth. [Retiring] never crossed my mind. I can’t wait to make my walk to the ring. You guys are definitely going to see what I’m talking about,” says Gatti. “I got the secret back.”

So keep on guessing till July 14.


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