Atlantic City loved Arturo Gatti and Arturo Gatti loved Atlantic City.
They had a good run, those two. But, as in all relationships, even the good ones, things change.
AC is still AC, but AG…well, after losses to Floyd Mayweather and Carlos Baldomir, the Human Highlight Reel cannot be counted upon to put butts in seats in Las Vegas’ trailer park cousin.
So who can fill Gatti’s shoes as AC’s house fighter? Promoter Bob Arum has a candidate he’d like to offer for your approval, and you can assess Miguel Cotto’s suitability to be boxing’s Atlantic City go-to-guy on Dec. 2nd, when the Puerto Rican rising star meets another undefeated Puerto Rican boxer, Carlos Quintana.
The two welterweights got on the phone with their translators to hype their Boardwalk Hall beef on Tuesday afternoon, and one question stood out apart from the bulk of the queries that touched on Cotto’s move north from 140: why isn’t this fight taking place in Puerto Rico?
Good point. Arum answered quickly.
“If you come to the New York metropolitan area you’ll see how many Puerto Ricans there are here,” said the promoter, who has to have an extra spring in his seventy-four-year-old bones after wresting the services of Manny Pacquiao back from his former cash cow, Oscar De La Hoya. “There are maybe more Puerto Ricans in the New York metro area than there are in Puerto Rico.”
Arum said Bally’s boxing czar, Ken Condon, is holding auditions for another AC fixture, and was impressed at the number of fans who’ve swarmed Cotto when he was here before (to fight Ricardo Torres in 2005).
But this is ‘cart before horse’ stuff…
First, the 26-year-old Caguas native has to meet and defeat his countryman, the 30-year-old southpaw, Quintana.
After downing a succession of journeyman, of varying quality, Quintana burst onto our radar screen when he upset phenom-flavor-of-the-week Joel Julio in June. His confidence, judging by his demeanor on the call, has to be high. He will not, he says, be derailed by any subplots, like who will get the most cheers from the boricuas come Dec. 2nd. When, not if, he beats Cotto, Quintana will not allow anyone to point to Cotto’s weight-hike as a reason for the loss, he told questioners.
The weight angle is a major angle in this bout. No doubt, Cotto will be pumped to be able to eat that half cup of mashed potatoes and teaspoon of gravy on Thursday. He hasn’t, he said, felt himself at full power since he beat Randall Bailey late in 2004. So, he will have a full reservoir of power and stamina at his disposal, Cotto said.
Neither fighter tipped his hand on strategy for the all-PR showdown, so it’s anyone’s guess whether we’ll get a tactical match, or a brawl-heavy festival of fury. For Condon and company hoping to replicate the Gatti phenomena, a brawl-heavy battle for the WBA title has to the desired outcome.
SPEEDBAG Arum said the winner of the Cotto/Q scrap will meet WBA No. 1 contender Oktay Urkal next. After that, if we’re presuming that Cotto bests the less experienced Q, Arum would like to set up a Cotto/Margarito match for next June. Jose Luis Castillo/Cotto is also an attractive pairing, Arum said, but Castillo is slated to appear on the same card with Ricky Hatton on Jan. 20, with the Hitman and the Scalehater due to get it on with each other if both emerge victorious.
—I’m liking Brian Minto’s chances with Axel Schultz on Saturday in Germany. Schultz is 38, and last fought in 1999. He stepped away from the game following a loss to Wladimir Klitschko (TKO8). Hey, if Minto needs any tape on Schultz, I can dig up my cassette of the night he beat George Foreman, April 22, 1995. I know, hold on before you fire off a “gotcha” email. I know Georgie got the nod in Vegas that night, as the vacant IBF pantsholderupper was up for grabs. But that was because Jerry Roth, Keith MacDonald and Chuck Giampa dropped the ball in disgraceful fashion. Harold Lederman scored it 117-111, and so did I.
—I was sooo disappointed in Sergei Liakhovich on Nov. 4 against Shannon Briggs. This was not the same dude who gave Lamon Brewster all he could handle and more in April. This was not the same dude who was telling me that Americans just don’t have the same fire that Eastern Euros, or anyone who grew up in rough circumstances, have. I called Sergei last week and didn’t hear from him so I called Ivalyo Gotzev, his manager. According to Gotzev, Liakhovich came in to the Briggs bout with tendonitis in both shoulders, more severely in the right. “He fought through camp with injuries,” Gotzev said. “He missed sparring, but sucked it up. But I didn’t know the extent of the injuries.” Liakhovich is craving a rematch with Briggs, the manager said.
—I got to ask Freddie Roach if this is true… but was I hearing things when I was watching the HBO Pacquiao/Morales pre-show, and someone said that Pac Man was bummed out hardcore once when his family was hungry, so his dad killed the dog and they ate it? Did I aurally hallucinate that? Lord, if that’s true then you can’t top that for an anecdote summarizing why a boxer from a rough upbringing has more motivational momentum than somebody who grew up in comparative luxury.