Good Guy Gatti

BY Rick Folstad ON June 22, 2005
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The only thing Arturo Gatti is missing is a white hat, a trusty sidekick and a faithful horse that comes when he whistles.

In another time and place, Gatti would be the guy the city leaders hired to clean up their town, to come in and gun down the bad guys, chase away the corrupt cattle baron and make everything safe again for the women and children.

Gatti would win the girl, win the day and win the respect and thanks of the townsfolk.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., meanwhile, would be the evil cattle baron, the corrupt man with all the riches, all the power, and all the tricks. He would be the guy you don’t trust, but you’d go to his home for dinner just to see what it’s like to be a king.

That’s kind of what their junior-welterweight title fight on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City (HBO pay-per-view) feels like. It’s one of those classic “bad guy versus good guy” story lines. Hero versus villain. Evil stepsisters versus Cinderella. Tokyo versus Godzilla.

But that’s only in the movies.

Gatti is factory whistles, lunch buckets, time cards and work boots. He fights with more grit than instinct, more heart than talent. He’s the fighter you cheer for if you’re one of those guys who goes to saloons instead of nightclubs, if you drive an old pickup instead of a new Lexus.

His best weapon is his toughness, though he keeps trying to tell us he’s a pretty slick boxer if we’d ever take the time to notice.

“I have a lot to prove to the world,” Gatti said last week. “I don’t like the way I’m spoken about. They forget about my ability and my talent. They say I’m a tough guy who doesn’t give up and they don’t talk about my ability (to box). After the victory, I’ll definitely be respected as one of the best (boxers) in the world.”

Maybe.

While Gatti gets the steel workers’ vote, Mayweather is loud, brash, violent and gifted. He has a tendency to let his mouth and fists move faster than his head, and he’s had more legal problems than a struggling second-year law student.

“They need a bad guy and I understand,” Mayweather said last week when asked about the good guy, bad guy story line. “When Bernard Hopkins fought Felix Trinidad, Hopkins was the bad guy. When Oscar De La Hoya fought Trinidad, then Trinidad was the bad guy. That’s how it works. You have to have a bad guy and a good guy. At the end of the day, if my kids are happy, I’m happy, no matter what the media says about me.”

Asked if this fight was more personal than his other fights, Mayweather, who has been charged with domestic violence among other things, said it was.

“(Gatti) got into my personal business, so I’m going to give him a personal beating,” he said. “I am always a villain.

“The truth is, he‘s not a good fighter and he‘s not on my level and I‘m going to show you. He shouldn‘t even be in the ring with me. I‘ll show you.”

Like Mayweather said, you’ve got to have a bad guy.

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