Does Leija have what it takes to derail Gatti
By Chris Robinson (October 23, 2004) 
Jesse James Leija (R)
One of boxing’s deepest and most talented divisions has yet another significant fight headed its way, as it was announced that fan favorite Arturo ‘Thunder’ Gatti will be putting his WBC Jr. Welterweight belt on the line vs. former champion Jesse James Leija. At first glance I saw this fight as a clear victory for Gatti, but looking deeper into it I find myself second guessing the outcome on this one. At second glance Jesse James Leija is definitely a live dog and an upset is far from out of the question.

Both men are coming off of excellent victories in which several people were picking them to lose. Leija, 47-6-2, was faced with the task of going heads up with lion Francisco Bojado and things looked bleak early. Compliments of a short inside punch in the second round, Jesse James was sent to the canvas and appeared to be a bit stunned. The bout was going in Bojado’s favor and a quick knockout appeared to be on the horizon. Despite the uphill battle Leija was in, he hung tough and continued to apply pressure to his younger foe. Rounds went by and the action was at an even tilt. Down the stretch Leija turned things up and ripped away on Bojado, pinning him on the ropes several times. The second half of the fight belonged to Leija and the judges awarded him a split decision victory with the cards reading 95-94, 96-93, and 94-95. Leija proved that he still had a lot of fight left in him and his stock rose with the big win.

Fast forward minutes later on the exact same evening and Arturo Gatti would be in a fight of his own with Romania’s Leonard ‘The Lion’ Dorin. Dorin was a champion at Lightweight and his rugged, pressure style had many believing he would wear Gatti down and come away with the win. Despite several predictions going against him, the night would belong to Arturo. He boxed well the first round and delivered a crunching hook to Dorin’s body that had ‘The Lion’ all but tamed and tasting canvas until the count of 10. The quick knockout was unexpected from my point of view, as I figured Dorin to be the type of crude customer who would drag Gatti into the trenches well deep into the fight. Minutes after Gatti’s win I pondered the possibilities of a Leija-Gatti clash but didn’t expect to see them facing each other any time soon. Months later a Gatti-Leija clash is now a reality and also appears to be one hell of a fight at that.

In this fight I have to favor Gatti. Leija’s win over Bojado was absolutely impressive but Gatti is far more proven in several areas. Leija’s career is on an upswing but in previous contests in the past against Mickey Ward and Kostya Tszyu he has seemed to lose a bit of fire when the going gets tough. Not to label Jesse a quitter by any means, but I don’t see him as a man who will be handing Gatti a loss. Arturo can punch and when he decides to discipline himself he can also box a bit too. His chin has stood up to some fierce punches and he is battle tested in just about every facet of the fight game. I think Leija will present some problems for him but I see lighting striking Jesse James late in the fight, most likely somewhere near the ribcage, eventually resulting in a Gatti TKO win. Both men have been through a lot of fire to get where they are at, but I simply see Gatti being a level above and expect him to put out Leija’s flames come January 29th
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