Arturo Gatti has been battered, beaten and outboxed enough in his 15-year fight career that his tank has to be running low at 33 years of age. When he wins, Gatti wins on guts and power plus a touch of style that has been added in the twilight of his career. But when he loses, it is because he is overwhelmed and outclassed.
Later this month Gatti faces yet another banger in Thomas Damgaard who looks like the kind of fighter to bring the “Thunder” out of Arturo like we haven’t seen since Micky Ward was on the other side of the ring.
Montreal-born Arturo Gatti was absolutely dominated recently by Floyd Mayweather Jr., arguably the best fighter in the world today. So lopsided was the bout that there was simply nothing the 39-7 (30 KOs) fighter could do as he was never in the fight. He couldn’t catch Mayweather with a lucky punch, and as the fight went on Gatti was battered and swelled up to the point he couldn’t try to hit what he couldn’t see. Six one-sided rounds were all anyone could stomach, but the TKO loss was evident from the opening bell.
Back in 2000 the scene was similar when Gatti got in over his head at 147 pounds and took on Oscar De La Hoya. Sliced and diced, “Thunder” was stopped on cuts and class as his corner stopped the bout in less than five rounds. He was down in the first round on that night and never in the bout.
The “Golden Boy” and “Pretty Boy” Floyd proved what Ivan Robinson had demonstrated years before – speed kills – and that Gatti could be exposed as a one-dimensional brawler. “Mighty” Ivan turned the trick twice in one year against Gatti, with the first bout being a brutal “Fight of the Year/Upset of the Year” battle in 1998. Prior to that Angel Manfredy went to war with the New Jersey resident, using fast hands and a razor-sharp jab to win a bloody eight-round TKO after dropping Gatti in the third. Those three fights made up a 0-3 year in 1998.
Moving ahead, 2002 brought fight fans the first two bouts of the “Irish” Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti trilogy. Ward and Gatti were gladiators who looked capable of delivering on a promise of all-out action with neither fighter giving an inch while taking a pounding in return for the right to land. Ward dropped Gatti in an incredible ninth round and went on to take the slugfest by majority decision over 10 rounds.
A rematch later the same year saw Gatti reverse the decision by using Ward’s own tactics – a searing left hook body attack – to take a more decisive, and unanimous, decision. Gatti scored the only knockdown of that fight as Ward eventually fell to a knee after catching a heavy right hand to the ear. The trilogy was completed in 2003 when Gatti rallied to score a sixth round knockdown, breaking his hand in the process, and boxed his way to another decision. Gatti and Ward gave everything they had in three fights, which left them with nothing much left to give.
Both Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti deserved a long vacation from the sport of boxing after the great memories they had created throughout their respective careers. Ward is still on vacation and has found retirement to his liking while the “Thunder” still rolls in the ring.
On January 28th HBO will broadcast from Arturo Gatti’s backyard in Atlantic City, as Thomas Damgaard looks to break Gatti out of his “boxer” form and make a “fighter” out of him once more. “Lionheart” Damgaard hasn’t been seriously tested but has passed his sweet science exam in every bout so far, having fought exclusively in his native Denmark. A 37-0 professional with 27 KO victories, Damgaard was a decorated amateur and brings decent power with him from a southpaw stance. He is a pitcher who loves to trade but has a tendency to catch more than he throws. Against the warrior Gatti that makes for an incredibly explosive fight – potentially – as neither will give an inch and both are prone to cuts. Facing the newly constructed boxer that Arturo has become under the tutelage of James “Buddy” McGirt, however, it could make for a long, slow fight night.
There will be no shortage of heart when the Dane Damgaard challenges Gatti for what is being called the vacant IBA welterweight title. Both men have risen from defeat to take victory and each has met adversity head-on and overcome it. When Damgaard defeated Philip Holliday in 2000, he did so with cuts over both eyes and a broken eardrum. In 2002 he came off the canvas to overcome cuts and Peter Malinga to win that bout by KO 9. A lot of what we hear about Thomas Damgaard echoes that of a fighter we know as Arturo Gatti. It will be interesting to see if Gatti tries to beat Damgaard the same way Robinson, De La Hoya and Mayweather beat Arturo – by outboxing a technically inferior fighter.
The most exciting fight for fans will be another rugged battle punctuated by brutal trades leading to bloody battles. Rather than brawl with a strong puncher like Damgaard, the path of least resistance is for Arturo Gatti to win this fight by building points behind his right hand and jab while winning the inevitable flurries that come in close quarters.
But since when has Arturo Gatti taken the easy route?