Gatti: Time to Clean House
By Jim Cawkwell (July 27, 2004) 
It was a night when those worn by time and trial refused to offer themselves as fodder for less experienced foes. Veteran Jesse James Leija began the resistance by inflicting a second loss upon the career of Francisco 'Panchito' Bojado. Once it was thought as inevitability that Bojado, a former Olympian, would make a natural ascension to a world championship and reign for many years. His early career weight issues and temporary loss of his trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. to Oscar de la Hoya are both factors that will figure in the anatomy of his demise, something to be analyzed another day, but it seems obvious for now that the great expectations of Bojado will be sharply revised.

The battle of Montreal, ironically contested between Italian Arturo Gatti and a Romanian in Leonard Dorin, was concluded rather swiftly, as Gatti did not wait to unleash his heavy artillery, and surprisingly he emerged from the debris completely unscathed. Accusations may flow concerning Dorin’s previous reputation as a lightweight fighter, but Dorin simply came to prominence in capturing the WBA lightweight title and fighting to a draw in his showdown with then IBF champion Paul Spadafora. Dorin fought the majority of his career in and around the light welterweight limit; indeed, his struggle to make the weight for the fight in Romania, for which he was subsequently stripped of his title indicates that the light welterweight class is a more natural environment for him. Having previously alluded to retirement, the future may be uncertain for Dorin as it certainly is for Interbox, Dorin’s promoters in Quebec who are currently scrambling to stay afloat as a premier force in Canadian boxing.

Gatti’s convincing stoppage win is an ominous signal to future opponents and to a vast percentage of the boxing media who had penciled him as a fading attraction living on borrowed time. It also offers relief to his promoters and to HBO who can freely negotiate through numerous possibilities for one of their leading stars.

Thankfully, one of the most attractive of these possibilities in terms of financial security for Gatti and marketable appeal to the boxing world is a logical choice.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. secured his position as Gatti’s mandatory challenger with a dominant showing against DeMarcus Corley. Mayweather has seemingly exerted a mere percentage of himself in navigating his way to two world championships in as many weight classes. However, there have been signs of vulnerability along the way, which indicate that his physical self might undo his ambitions.

On the surface, it would appear that Gatti-Mayweather Jr. resembles the classic boxer versus puncher confrontation, but both fighters have multi-dimensionality that makes the prospect of their fight so intriguing. In my favorite Mayweather Jr. performance to date, he expertly dismantled Diego Corrales, a stalking aggressor with intimidating power.

On that occasion Mayweather Jr. effortlessly combined his blinding speed, excellent ring generalship and educated aggression to cut Corrales down to size, something he has not forgotten how to do as demonstrated in his recent fight with dangerous South African bomber Philip N’dou. The vast majority of Gatti’s career has been the definition of trench warfare, and yet his alter ego is a graceful and talented boxer, one that brought him his first world championship and has resurfaced to great effect during his union with trainer Buddy McGirt.

Montreal is the idyllic sentimental setting for Gatti to defend his championship against Mayweather Jr. It is a strange irony that the stylistic reputations that precede both fighters are clearly reminiscent of 'Sugar' Ray Leonard and Roberto 'Hands of Stone' Duran, two legendary warriors who graced Montreal with its last true super-fight.

If by some catastrophe the Gatti-Mayweather Jr. fight dissipates, another logical fight may become a reality, one anticipated by the boxing community for many years, only with a veritable minefield of obstacles to overcome in order to realize it. Firstly, Kostya Tszyu’s gross inactivity in recent years might be hugely significant in his attempt to escape the challenge of Sharmba Mitchell in their fight this November. Secondly, the television alliances of Gatti to HBO and Tszyu to Showtime would threaten to derail the chances of that fight happening despite the availability of both men.

Tszyu’s injuries and fighting schedule, apparently retirement oriented, have meant that he has not engaged the new generation of light welterweights as was expected.

Instead, that growing legion of stars has busied themselves, hoping to be adequately placed in order to succeed Tszyu in the inevitable circumstance of his departure from boxing. Tszyu’s absence leaves Gatti as their most desirable target, a last remnant of past glory to conquer. However, if they perceive him to be easy prey it will likely be the old that will be teaching the young for some time to come.

Greatness calls on Gatti once more, and waits for his always-emphatic answer.
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