The perfect storm may arrive Saturday night
Thunder and Lightning.
The two are irrevocably linked. Thunder is power. Lightning is speed. And this Saturday, the two will meet in the boxing ring.
I know boxing has lost most of its mainstream appeal. The general public doesn't follow the sport anymore. They can name Mike Tyson and maybe Oscar De La Hoya but no one else. The sweet science has lost its hold on the everyday sports fan. It doesn't help that the glamour heavyweight division is a mess and that any time a big fight goes to the judges no one knows what will happen. Fans have lost confidence in a sport run by corrupt promoters.
Boxing needs to be cleaned up but there is too much money for it to happen. You have these fighters out there that give everything. They train so hard and sacrifice so much. They cut and they bleed. Yet they are not allowed to know the score of the match. So a fighter never really knows if he is ahead or behind. Often the winner of the fight doesn't get the win. I don't know how many times after a decision, I have turned off the TV in disgust swearing that next time I won't fall for this sport again.
The casual sports fan wants boxing to be like the movies. Where Rocky Balboa uses his head as a form of defense and the fight is all action. Toe to toe power punching.
Arturo Gatti was that fighter. Born in Italy, raised in Montreal and now the pride of Jersey City, New Jersey, "Thunder" was all heart and no brains. He was a bleeder and wowed crowds with his ability to take a punch and throw haymakers. For three consecutive years, from 1996-98, he was in the "Fight of the Year." In 1996, his cut man, Joe Souza, somehow found a way to keep Gatti's swollen eyes open just enough for him to see his opponent, Wilson Rodriguez. A bleeding Gatti then broke Rodriguez's rib and knocked him out with a left hook to the chin. In 1997, Gabriel Ruelas dazed him and hit him with 17 unanswered blows in the fourth round but somehow the junior lightweight champion stayed on his feet. The fifth round started the same way but another left hook to the chin silenced Ruelas. In 1998, Gatti moved up to lightweight to face Ivan Robinson. He lost but nearly pulled out the fight with a right hook with 45 seconds to go. The loss even furthered his legend as a fighter who would do whatever it took. In 2001, Gatti traded bombs with De La Hoya. He lost the fight but won even more hearts with his bravery against the stronger fighter.
Gatti knew he wasn't going to live long with his fighting style. He hired Buddy McGirt Jr., a former fighter, who has tried to evolve Gatti from a warrior to a boxer. But Gatti still showed his firepower and heart in the ring with three epic junior welterweight battles with Mickey Ward, who has every bit of Gatti's heart and courage. The trilogy was a fight lover's dream, 30 rounds of non stop action. Gatti won the second and third fights. The final battle he won with a hand that was broken in the fourth round. Ward retired after the third fight and is now friends with Gatti. The two earned each other's respect and that of every true boxing fan.
When Gatti enters the ring Saturday night for his PPV fight, he will enter a beloved hero before a partisan crowd in Atlantic City. But he won’t be the betting favorite.
Floyd "Pretty Boy" Mayweather Jr. was born to be a champion. His father Floyd Sr., who was born in Cleveland, and his uncles Roger and Jeff were all boxers. Roger, a two-time world champ, trains Floyd. Mayweather is the lightning. He is quick and considered by many to be pound for pound the best fighter in the world. He is 33-0 and has been the champion in both the Superfeather and Lightweight divisions.
Mayweather is a great fighter and he knows it. He is wearing the black hat in this fight and he doesn't mind. He believes he is the best fighter in the world and many boxing fans agree with him. He has talent and speed and an ego to match. He has repeatedly ridiculed Gatti calling him a C level fighter. Pretty Boy is already looking past Gatti and has his eyes on a big money fight with Ricky Hatton, who recently TKO’d the former undisputed champion of the 140 pound weight class, Kostya Tszyu. In an interview on boxingtalk.com, Mayweather called both Gatti and Ward club fighters and dismissed any chance Gatti could have. In the same interview, Mayweather said that if McGirt was still in his prime, he would beat Gatti and McGirt in the same night. Mayweather also found time to speak ill of De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins and talk about being in the movies someday.
And on boxingscene.com, fans seem to agree that Gatti has no chance against the younger, faster Mayweather. Seventy-three percent have picked Mayweather. Even supposed hardcore Gatti fans believe their hero is a long shot. While Gatti has lost six times, Mayweather has never even been knocked down. Many believe that Mayweather is going run and that he will frustrate Gatti then use his superior skill to hurt Gatti as he rushes forward. Mayweather seems poised to be the new face of boxing.
Gatti has fought a lot of brutal fights, you don't go through three consecutive fights of the year and 30 rounds with Mickey Ward and not be a bit beat-up. He is already forever immortalized in the sport but this is his last shot at that high profile chance at all time greatness.
My friend Paul Boriska is big boxing fan. He admired the thrills the old Gatti gave him but he loves the new Gatti as created by one of his favorite trainers, McGirt. He loves Gatti's heart and the respect he has for the sport. By the same token, he despises Mayweather. Paul respects his skill and talent but hates his showboating in the ring. He hates the way he tears down other boxers with his mouth and often talks to the HBO commentators while he is fighting in the ring. There is more than one path to boxing greatness. Paul respects Gatti's path.
Paul knows boxing. Often he has not only predicted the winner of fight but on what type of punch it will end. While Mayweather is already counting his 10 million purse for a Hatton fight, Paul is envisioning something else.
"Mayweather has never been hit before. Gatti is going to hit him."
If Mayweather is truly the best fighter in the world, his unblemished jaw will withstand Gatti's steel hook. Five years ago the old Gatti would have had no chance against Mayweather. McGirt has extended his career and added skill to what was an incredibly big heart and irrepressible guts.
Thunder vs. Lightening.
Working class vs. Hollywood.
Old school vs. new school.
Iron will vs. perfect pedigree.
It has all the makings. Better than a movie.
One of two things will happen Saturday night. The Loudmouth kid will ascend to be a dying sport's brightest star. Or the fighter's fighter will dig even deeper and shock the world. But just not Paul Boriska.