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Floyd Mayweather vs. Arturo Gatti: The Bigger or The Boxer?

BY Joey Knish ON April 04, 2005
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Just two fights into his junior welterweight career, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will bite off the biggest piece the division has to offer on June 25th when he meets Arturo Gatti in Atlantic City, New Jersey. “Thunder” Gatti isn’t necessarily the best in the division, but there is little debate that he is the biggest.

It is true that Gatti has re-established himself as one of the top ten fighters in the 140-pound division, but he still may not be the biggest challenge to Mayweather Jr. in terms of overall pugilistic skill. Speaking purely in terms of physical size, however, Gatti is a giant in the division.

Throughout most of his 15-year professional fight career, Gatti has been a master at manipulating his body to make the lowest weight possible, then working to recover all the weight lost. He has done this from weigh-in days to the day of the fight and has been using it to his advantage for years.

Perhaps the most disturbing display of this was in April of 2000 when Gatti took on Joey Gamache. The junior welterweight fight took place with Gatti entering the ring at an absurd middleweight level of 160-pounds after weighing in the day before at 141-pounds. While it wasn’t the first time the Montreal native gained a substantial amount of weight in less than 24 hours, it was an extreme weight gain and partially contributed to the end of Gamache’s career. As the promoter Lou DiBella accurately summarized after the fight, “Joey Gamache was not a mismatch on paper. It was a mismatch on the scales.”

Clearly his upcoming battle, which has suddenly turned highly personal for reasons either genuine or “promotionally induced,” is another case where the fight will be anything but a mismatch on paper yet may be one on the scales. Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been fighting at 140-pounds for just two bouts, and prior to that had waged war as a 130-pound super featherweight as recently as November 2001. It is a near certainty that the naturally smaller Mayweather will be at a weight disadvantage come fight night. The questions that now abound are how much will he weigh and how will it affect the outcome of the HBO-PPV fight.

The Michigan born, 28-year-old Mayweather will bring a perfect 33-0 record into the ring, complete with 22 knockouts, when he takes on Gatti in June. He has incredible boxing ability, mixing lightning speed with smooth footwork and frustrating defense. Against the man they call “Thunder,” Mayweather will be relying on his speed and footwork to get in, get his work done, and get out before catching enemy fire.

The heavy-handed Gatti has knocked out 30 of his 39 victims, and while under the recent tutelage of James “Buddy” McGirt has become a better “boxer” and less a pure “puncher.”  However improved the 32-year-old Gatti has become, there is no debate as to where his chances lie in this fight. Gatti must use his edge in size, strength and punching power to slow down his opponent and cut short the scheduled 12-rounder. If the bout goes to the scorecards it will be because Floyd Mayweather Jr. outboxed and outclassed the fan favorite.

One could make a case that Arturo Gatti hasn’t defeated a true boxer in close to a decade. Consider his recent victories over a ready-for-retirement Jesse James Leija and an in-your-face and over his weight class Leonard Dorin. Prior to those two bouts, an unknown but surprisingly game Gianluca Branco was imported from Italy and gave Gatti fits by standing and trading with him. Those fights did follow three unforgettable epic wars with Micky Ward, but they were more out of a “Rocky” movie than a demonstration of the finer points in prizefighting. The trilogy makes for a nice DVD set in the collectors’ corner, but won’t be found in any instructional videos.

This fight boils down to “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather utilizing his edge in skills to pick apart his bigger, slower foe. For Arturo “Thunder” Gatti it comes down to making the most of his opportunities when he does catch Mayweather, and to wear him down in the clutches.

There are two boxing adages we can apply when analyzing the Gatti-Mayweather bout:

1. A boxer generally beats a puncher
2. A good big man usually beats a good little man

Mayweather is the “boxer” who should beat the “puncher” Gatti, but Arturo will definitely be the “big man” who usually beats the “little man,” such as Floyd will be on this night.

In the end, however, the crucial fact that decides the fight may boil down to one fact: speed kills.

And Floyd Mayweather has it in abundance.

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