There was a lot of talk about the intangibles, but what do you expect when you’re talking to a guy like Arturo “Thunder” Gatti? - Heart, guts and stamina. A little over-used maybe, but Gatti can’t be explained any other way. It’s like trying to describe Santa Claus without mentioning the words robust and jolly. The intangibles are who he is. They explain what he does, and how well he does it.
Talent? It’s there, but it sometimes gets lost on the way to the press conference.
Some say Gatti belongs in the pound-for-pound rankings as one of the best fighters in the world, but that almost seems like a demotion. Talent wins fights, but it doesn’t win “fight of the year” honors.
But Gatti (38-6, 29 KOs) does.
“Of course I am talented,” Gatti said on a conference call. “I know what I have when I step in the ring. I don’t know what people are watching if they don’t think I’m talented.”
Still, when he defends his WBC super lightweight title against Jesse James Leija (45-6-2, 1 NC, 18 KOs) on January 29 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, it isn’t fast hands or quick feet or slick moves that everyone is paying to see. It’s those crazy intangibles that are selling all the tickets.
“He’s a warrior, and you can never take that away from Gatti,” Leija said from his training camp in Texas. “Sometimes I’m in awe watching him fight. But those types of fights (wars) will come back and haunt you later in your career or when it’s over. He’s made a great name for himself.”
Leija hasn’t done too badly for himself either, but the guy who is packing the house is Gatti. He’s the blue-collar kid with the white-collar fan club, the guy voted most likely to bring you to your feet and make you shake your head. How fun is he to watch? Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells called and apologized for not being able to make the fight. He hopes to make the next one.
The next fight might be against Floyd Mayweather Jr., though that’s taking too much for granted. That’s because before he starts thinking about a future big-money fight against Mayweather, Gatti knows he has to get past Leija. A lot of hot prospects have found that a long road to walk, but Leija has made a career out of beating the house favorites.
“If you lose you‘re history,” Gatti said. “That‘s the way I look at this fight. I‘m ready to show the world what I‘m about, and if I don’t win this fight, there ain’t gonna be a Mayweather fight. James is coming to take something that I have.”
Gatti isn’t brash, but he’s honest. He knows if he loses this fight, he also loses maybe the biggest payday of his career.
“Jesse has always been a crafty fighter,” Gatti said, “very experienced. He takes it one round at a time. He is very cautious and I will try to take him off his game plan. I am the younger guy, the stronger guy. I’m not going to worry. I am in great shape and I am ready to fight.”