This past weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Arturo Gatti won his second world title belt by defeating Gianluca Branco for the vacant WBC jr. welterweight title.
It's a well-earned distinction for a guy who has given so much to the game with his two-fisted, free-wheeling, barroom brawling style. In an age where boxing yearns for legitimate stars and guys who can put butts in the seats, the sport needs a dozen or so more guys just like him.
But let's get one thing straight, while Gatti is great for the game, he's not a great fighter.
No, this is no knock on Gatti, he deserves everything he gets. He fills arenas- he fought to another packed house in Atlantic City, he's a consistent ratings getter for HBO, and because of his all-action style he makes more than a million bucks a fight now. Nobody denies him all that, but too many times you hear the general media or talking heads- that cover boxing about once a blue moon- refer to Gatti as a 'great fighter' Even boxing fans who you'd think would know better refer to him with the same adjective.
Is he exciting? Yes. Is he worth the price of admission? No doubt about it. Does he epitomize everything that the sport should stand for? Absolutely.
But does all that make him a 'great' fighter?
I mean, if he's great, what does that make guys like Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Henry Armstrong, Roberto Duran, Ezzard Charles, Benny Leonard or Archie Moore. Or for a contemporary comparison, guys like Roy Jones( although he is vastly overrated in certain aspects), Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather? Those guys are great and deserve those types of accolades.
Gatti, is a gutsy fighter, who is good- not great. And there's no shame in that. This is not to demean him in anyway. I guess what I'm really try to say- and using Gatti- as an example is that the word 'great' is well, greatly overused. There are a lot of things that are 'poor', 'sub-par', 'average' and some that are merely 'OK' or 'pretty good' and 'decent'. But few things in life, are truly great.
Muhammad Ali was a great heavyweight. Lennox Lewis is very good. Willie Mays was a great ballplayer. Andre Dawson was very good. Michael Jordan was a great basketball player. Ray Allen is very good. Rakim was a great rapper. Jay-Z is very good. You see the point that I'm making?
That word has to be thrown around like manhole covers, instead today it's thrown around like pennies out of a change jar.
To put this into further perspective, while Gatti is now a jr. welterweight 'champion', he would have never challenged for the WBC crown if it was still around the waist of Kostya Tszyu, who is widely regarded as the divisions best. But to go further, he beat a guy in Gianluca Branco that wasn't even rated in Ring Magazine's top ten. And looking at the division, you wonder if Gatti is even a top five jr. welterweight himself.
Are you 100-percent sure that you'd put your mortgage on Gatti against the likes of: Sharmba Mitchell, Zab Judah, Vivian Harris, Ricky Hatton, DeMarcus Corley and even a youngster like Miguel Cotto?
I'm not sure I would and I'll tell you why. This supposedly 'new and improved' Gatti has made some adjustments in his style that has been very beneficial to him. But the new Buddy McGirt trained Gatti has beaten the likes of a faded Terron Millett, took two out of three grueling fights against Micky Ward and then beat an unknown Branco for the title. The trilogy against 'Irish' Micky was great for boxing, but the reality is that Ward was a fighter with a dozen losses on his record and his straight-ahead, come-forward, style was built to order for Gatti. When he faced a guy that could box a bit in Branco, he did struggle a tad.
Since his loss to Oscar De La Hoya in March of 2001, Gatti has been adroitly moved by both his manager Pat Lynch and his promoter Main Events. Using the leverage of his marketability and popularity, they have restored their fighter without facing a legitimate top five jr. welterweight.
Now, it looks like his next fight will be against Leonard Dorin in June. Dorin is a tough little nut to crack. But 'little' is the operative word. Dorin is a diminutive sort who's been described as a lightweight, with featherweight's height. And to top it off, he doesn't punch all that hard.
But it should be a great fight- yes, I said the word- because both guys make for pleasing fights and will be right in each others face all night long throwing leather in all directions.
And no doubt as we get closer to the fight, over-exuberant journalists and observers will start talking about what a great fighter Gatti is.
But remember what I told you here, Gatti is a good fighter, who's great for the game. THIS WEEK
HBO returns again this week with another edition of 'Boxing After Dark' with a doubleheaded featuring WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito defending against Hercules Kyvelos. And IBF bantamweight king Rafael Marquez is facing Pete Frissina.
I don't want to say that these two bouts are mismatches in favor of the two Mexicans, but more than one insider has dubbed this show,' White Guys Can't Fight'
Joe Mesi has been added as the opening bout for HBO when Shane Mosley faces Winky Wright on March 13th. Believe it or not, Michael Moorer is being considered as his opponent.
What, is Sean Gibbons choosing the opponent here?