A Look Back – Gatti vs. Rodriguez
By Jason Petock, DoghouseBoxing (Aug 17, 2009) Photo © German Villasenor  
Arturo Gatti was well known for the tremendous amount of fortitude and pure heart he always showcased in the ring during his illustrious boxing career. Whether he won or lost, Arturo always came to fight and put on the kind of shows that many pugilism fans hadn’t seen since the days of black and white television and even radio broadcasts. He brought a determination and throwback style and guts into the ring that hasn’t been seen much these days in boxing, and probably isn’t going to be seen again or at least any time soon. Fighters like Gatti only come around once in a lifetime, and we as fans were only so lucky to have experienced the great career of “The Human Highlight Film” and undisputed “Blood and Guts Champion” of our generation. With this being said, I’d like to take a look back at one of Arturo Gatti’s greatest hits, at least in my humble opinion, and celebrate a fighter who brought blue collar boxing back to the mainstream and made us all fans of his never quit, never surrender style of boxing.

Gatti vs. Rodriguez

Wilson Rodriguez had been fighting for 11 years already, had 53 fights under his belt and fought a total of 320 rounds, with a record of 43-7-3 with 24 knockouts to his credit prior to facing Gatti at MSG, and it was his first appearance in the ring in America, being ranked #2 among junior lightweight challengers. At a knockout ratio of 45%, Rodriguez had floored 24 of the 53 opponents he had faced, in comparison to Gatti who had a knockout ratio of 80%, having dropped 20 of 25 fighters he had met in the ring. Arturo Gatti had been fighting for 5 years, had 25 fights to his name and fought 86 rounds up until that point with a record of 24-1-0, with 20 knockouts. His only loss at that time was to King Solomon, dubbed as a “cutie” by commentator Jim Lampley. Arturo was the current IBF Junior Lightweight Champion after beating Tracy Harris Patterson in a well fought out affair, and Rodriquez was aiming for his title, and an impressive debut in the states with a victory over the 130 pound Champion in a scheduled 12 round affair.

Round 1 – Both fighters came out early establishing their jabs, with Gatti landing a nice right hand to the body that was the first solid punch to punctuate the round. Rodriquez showed his experience throughout while avoiding punches and offering good movement around the ring. Rodriguez landed a straight right hand over the top, while slipping many of Gatti’s harder punches, and continued to score with an educated jab and an accurate left hook. A huge mouse developed early over Gatti’s left eye and began to swell almost immediately, a by-product of Rodriquez’s lead right hands that were also landing successfully during the round. Rodriguez earned the round, landing 30 punches of 78 with a connect percentage of 38% to 61 thrown by Gatti, who landed 16 punches for a connect ratio of 26%.

Round 2 – Rodriquez kept moving to the left to avoid Gatti’s trademark left hook, a hook that would prove vicious throughout Arturo’s career. Gatti showed nice head movement, moving side to side and ducking and weaving. Gatti landed the left hook for the first time in the fight. Rodriquez was able to catch Gatti with shots when Gatti wouldn’t move his head as much. Rodriquez continued to target the swollen left eye of Gatti with his right hand lead effectively. Gatti’s right eye began to show signs of a mouse under it as well. Both eyes started to swell, but Gatti still managed to land a nice right hand under Rodriguez’s shoulder, followed up by two left hooks, one of which hurt Rodriguez. Rodriguez dropped Gatti with a short left hook inside that Gatti got up from quickly. Gatti dug another vicious left hook to the body and then they clinched. Gatti came on strong at the end of the round. Rodriguez won the round 10 – 8 because of the knockdown.

Round 3 – Both fighters came out swinging and ended up in another clinch early. During this round, and the entire fight, it came down to the experience and boxing style of European Wilson Rodriguez versus the drive, heart, and determination of a young Arturo Gatti. Gatti kept pushing forward and driving his left hook into the side of Rodriguez’s head repeatedly. Commentators watching the fight speculated that this fight was too soon for Gatti, words they would soon find themselves eating. Gatti pushed Rodriguez back with his left hook and connected while forcing Wilson back into the ropes. Arturo landed a hard left hook that mobilized Rodriguez, but he took the punch well. Gatti’s tremendous heart was apparent and noted by Roy Jones, Jr. at ringside, commentating on the bout. At 22 seconds left in the round Gatti hammered Rodriguez with a tremendous left hook that jolted his entire body. Gatti took the round 10 – 9, showing his resilience and will to fight no matter what, turning the tide in the bout. At that point Wilson Rodriguez was still ahead 29-27.

Round 4 – Gatti kept coming forward and ripped a nice right hand to Rodriguez’s body early. With both eyes continuing to close rapidly, Gatti pushed forward and never let up. Rodriguez continued to back up, showing that the shots Gatti had been starting to land were taking effect more and more. Arturo threw a crisp right hand that snapped Wilson’s head to the side, and Wilson continued to backpedal as Arturo drove forward offensively. Jim Lampley suggested that Gatti was “Boxing in the Dark, through nearly closed eyes, here on Boxing After Dark”.

Arturo kept landing some great shots to Wilson’s body to slow his movement. Gatti got hurt with another right hand from Rodriguez and the two fighters clinched. Referee Wayne Kelly broke them up and the action continued. Rodriguez wasn’t boxing as effectively as he had in the earlier rounds, and the accumulation of hard body and head shots he was taking from Gatti had begun to show. Arturo landed a pounding straight right hand that rocked Wilson, and Wilson instinctively clinched, as you could see the look on his face as he took a deep breath in. The crowd stood on its feet in approval of Arturo Gatti and the excitement he had brought to MSG. Harold Lederman gave Rodriguez the round 10 – 9, but I gave Gatti the round 10 – 9. Gatti landed the harder more effective shots, was the busier fighter, and completely dominated the round as Rodriguez did nothing but clinch and backpedal while getting hit.

Round 5 – With both eyes still swollen, but handled by excellent cutman Joe Souza, Arturo Gatti continued to follow Wilson Rodriguez around the ring, winging shots at his body and head while Rodriguez continued to back up and box. They stopped in the center of the ring with Rodriguez landing a nice right and left to Gatti’s head, after which they clinched again. The crowd started to cheer, “Gatti! Gatti!” Arturo ripped a right hand to Wilson’s hip and then followed up with a vicious left hook right across the point of the chin of Rodriguez. Gatti dug a right hand south of the border on Rodriguez and got one point taken away by the referee. With 38 seconds remaining in the round, Gatti nailed Rodriguez in the side with a pummeling clean left hook to the body that sent Rodriguez directly to the canvas. Rodriguez got up and when Gatti came forward he turned it around and rallied against Gatti with a barrage of rights and lefts. With the point deduction for the low blow, Gatti still clearly won the round 9 -8.

Round 6 – When asked in-between rounds why he went down, Wilson Rodriguez said, “Because he hurt me to the rib cage”. Gatti came out confident and strong again, throwing a clubbing right hand to Rodriguez’s body. Rodriguez landed a good left hook of his own. Blood was trickling from the left nostril of Rodriguez. Gatti’s left eye appeared to be more open than was the case two rounds earlier, due to the excellent efforts of Joe Souza in the corner. Wilson threw a few jabs to keep Gatti off of him. Gatti continued to come forward with incredible heart, still throwing the left hook and short right hands that landed with effect. His left hook was zoning in and landing with accuracy and force. Arturo used good head movement, avoiding Wilson’s jab, and maintained his body attack, which took its toll on Rodriguez big time. The crowd chanted, “Gatti! Gatti!” lifting their fighter and showing their support once more. Gatti hurt Rodriguez with another body shot. Then Arturo Gatti dropped the boom with a destroying left hook that floored Wilson Rodriguez like a bag of wet laundry with 55 seconds remaining in the round, stopping Rodriguez and successfully defending his title against all odds.

With a devastating comeback win against Wilson Rodriguez, Arturo Gatti proved that he had the heart required to be in that ring, often more so than his opponent. “People will never forget this fight. It will be shown over, and over, and over again”, said Larry Merchant, and he was right. Roy Jones said, “There is my new nominee for fight of the year”. There are many epic and sensational wars that Arturo “Thunder” Gatti fought in, and this was just one of them. I remember them all and watch them over and over again, not just this fight like Larry Merchant said, but all of them. I watch his victories and his losses, his triumphs and his tragedies. I watch them all because Arturo Gatti is the epitome of what a fighter should be, a boxer who wore his heart on his sleeve and wouldn’t leave that ring unless you carried him out. He fought with a sense of pride and honor that needs to be restored to boxing and you would have had to kill “Thunder” in the ring to get him out of it. Remember the man. Remember his fights. Honor his memory and if you ever need any encouragement, motivation, or a reminder of what it takes to succeed, just watch this fight or any of Arturo Gatti’s fights (win or loss) and you’ll feel that very same sense of urgency and get that kick in your ass that you know you need. I know I still do every time I watch his fights. Thanks for the memories Arturo, we miss you.

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