Two major events have added considerable flavor to Hoboken’s history in the past fifty or so years. The first to electrify the city was the filming of On the Waterfront and the second was Arturo Gatti moving into town. Hoboken now smiles brighter than ever before because within its grounds lives New Jersey’s most beloved and famous gladiator and so it was quite appropriate that Wednesday’s final press conference for his upcoming battle took place about five-hundred yards from his home.
Gatti’s loyal fans are revving up to cheer on their hero once more as he takes aim at Carlos Baldomir and his WBC welterweight title Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The fight is a complete sellout, which is a credit to Gatti’s rock star popularity in his adopted state of New Jersey. This Italian born, Canadian bred, Jersey City molded fighter has a dedicated fan base comparable to the likes of Rickey Hatton in Manchester, England and Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines. Win, lose, or draw, Arturo Gatti’s fans have never wavered in their admiration for him, and in an era of boxing where loyalty is usually considered rooting for the fighter who’s dishing out the most punishment, that’s quite an incredible feat to maintain.
At Wednesday’s press conference to promote the fight, Gatti sat patiently with the media to discuss his upcoming fight, but the conversation soon turned to reflecting on his career. “There’s no luck in boxing, I am a good fighter,” Gatti said with self-confidence. “Atlantic City’s been good to me, boxing’s been good to me, it’s nice to give back.”
Many thought Gatti would retire after being manhandled by Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in June of 2005, but here he is fighting for a world title again thanks to Carlos Baldomir’s momentous upset of Zab Judah to snatch away the welterweight championship. Due to the irrational and irresponsible politics of the sanctioning bodies, which we’ve come to expect, Baldomir will only defend his WBC title because that’s all he was willing to pay for. Still, he’s recognized as the top welterweight as Gatti’s trainer, Buddy McGirt, reinforced at Wednesday.
“Baldomir got robbed—he really is the undisputed welterweight champion.”
Gatti said he hadn’t watched Baldomir’s last fight. In fact, he doesn’t watch any of his opponents’ fights ever since he lost to King Solomon back in 1992, but that doesn’t mean he’s pulling a Zab Judah and underestimating his opponent.
“I’m well prepared and I took Baldomir very seriously,” Gatti proclaimed after being introduced at Wednesday’s press conference. “He beat Judah, a much better fighter than me, but Judah doesn’t have as big a heart as I do. Buddy (McGirt), we’re gonna make magic on the 22nd.”
His skills may not be of legendary quality, but then again, Arturo Gatti didn’t get this far in his boxing career by relying on his physical ability alone. That’s part of his great appeal, and ironically, Gatti’s propensity for taking punishment and spilling his blood is what’s elevated him to superstar status within the sport, especially in New Jersey where fans practically bow at his feet.
His fans don’t care that he isn’t the best fighter in the world and that he’s lost seven times in his career. All they want is for Gatti to be himself and give them yet another night to cherish in their memory. It’s their love affair with his tough-nosed throwback style, his LaMotta-like ability to take punches, and his flair for the dramatic that will again pack Boardwalk Hall on July 22 to see if he can become a world champion one more time. Gatti is in for a tough battle though against the seasoned Baldomir, who not only has Carlos Monzon’s trainer in his corner, but who hasn’t lost a fight in more than seven years. The outcome of the fight may be in question but there is one thing that’s a sure bet come Saturday night. Arturo Gatti will give it everything he has and fight bravely to the end because that’s where his heart takes him, and that’s why he will be immortalized in boxing history right next to the likes of Jake LaMotta and Rocky Graziano.
“I’m an animal, guys like me don’t come around too often,” Gatti quipped with a smile after being asked why he would come back after taking such a bad beating by Floyd Mayweather, Jr. He was also quick to remind us that although Floyd beat him, he did have the courage to try and mix it up with boxing’s best.
“Other guys are ducking him so at least I took the fight.”
It’s obvious why Arturo Gatti is unconditionally loved by his fans and has become such a big draw to boxing over the years. His humble and modest nature outside of the ring that explodes into that ferocious and dangerous animal once the bell rings is why we will never forget Arturo Gatti. It’s the best of both worlds and this crowned prince of New Jersey would have it no other way.