Arturo Gatti, hoping for a multi-million dollar showdown with Floyd Mayweather this summer, made quick work of Jesse James Leija Saturday, recording an impressive fifth-round knockout at Convention Hall in Atlantic City.
Gatti showcased his boxing skills and especially his jab, working behind the jab to win every round before connecting with a big right hand early in the fifth round that dropped the San Antonio veteran. Leija rose on wobbly legs, and landed some counters as Gatti got wild as he went for the knockout. But Leija was as good as done.
A final left hook by Gatti put Leija on the deck, and “Jesse James” was counted out at 1:48 of the round.
“James is crafty and experienced, and I had to use the jab to beat him,” Gatti told HBO’s Larry Merchant afterwards. “And that’s what I did.”
Gatti, 39-6 (29 knockouts), moved and jabbed for the entire four and-a-half rounds, baffling the veteran. Leija, 47-7-1 (19 knockouts), landed every now and then, and certainly made Gatti miss more than the Jersey City, N.J. native would have liked. But there was a significant size advantage, and every punch Gatti landed seemed to affect Leija.
The end came when Gatti landed a long right hand. It crashed against Leija’s jaw as he backed away, and he never seemed to recover.
Next could be Mayweather, who, according to HBO, missed a court date this week.
Whether “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s legal problems affect the proposed Mayweather-Gatti pay-per-view fight scheduled for this June is unknown.
Mayweather, who knocked out Henry Bruseles last week, was expected to be in attendance Saturday. He was not.
“We’re not going to wait,” Gatti told Merchant. “I want to show the world that I am the best.”
On the undercard, Kassim Ouma retained his IBF junior middleweight title with a unanimous 12-round decision over Kofi Jantuah. Ouma won by scores of 118-112, 116-112 and 117-111. It was a fast-paced fight, but one that Ouma dominated with superior hand speed and defensive prowess.
The bigger, bulkier Jantuah missed a ton of punches and seemed to tire early on.
* Read Robert Cassidy Jr.’s Report from Ringside and post-fight video coverage of Gatti-Leija.