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Thunder Gatti Couldn’t Survive Mayweather’s Lightning
MIAMI, FLA—Four fighters reached a crossroad in their careers on this evening, Saturday, June 25, 2005. HBO PPV sold us an affair entitled ‘Thunder and Lightning’ that –although seen as a mismatch by most- still generated enough interest and intrigue to a large number of fans. The big question mark of the evening was Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who was to bring lightning to Arturo Gatti’s thunder.
Coming into the fight, Floyd had the most to lose. For some reason, many in the boxing world determined that the true test of his greatness was going to come from Arturo Gatti. Never mind the previous battles Mayweather Jr. had won, the very worthy opponents he had defeated. Tonight was going to be the make it or break it night for him; he needed to assert himself, and nothing short of greatness was going to satisfy the detractors. I am happy to report that ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd Mayweather, Jr. gave a virtuoso performance, stopping Arturo Gatti at the end of six rounds of relentless punishment.
Have you ever watched a magician perform a trick that seems so unbelievable you just sit in astonishment and ask yourself, now, how did he do that? If you have, then you can understand the magnitude of Mayweather’s performance against Gatti. Floyd Jr. made every effort to impress, even knocking Gatti down in the first round, when the Canadian warrior forgot to protect himself and dropped his hands looking for assistance from the referee about what he perceived as a previous infraction. It was a legitimate knockdown, and it is inexplicable how someone with Gatti’s experience committed such a mindless mistake.
It didn’t get much better after that; Mayweather came out in round two with the same resolve and focus. He didn’t run, as so many have accused him of doing in the past; he stood in front of Gatti, more often than not, giving him every opportunity to take a shot. Either Gatti would be too slow to respond, or if he did, he would be so far off the mark that you could feel the breeze in your living room; Mayweather would then make him pay with sharp, powerful combinations that would have Gatti on the retreat and seemingly hurt. Gatti had no response to the calls, nothing McGirt taught him prepared him for the lightning that was striking him in such precise and devastating manner.
Mayweather peppered Gatti with stiff jabs and short hooks to the body almost at will in the third round. It was painful to watch, because as courageous as Gatti has been throughout his career, it was evident that he was in way over his head here, and with each round Mayweather seemed to get sharper and stronger, which could only mean an early night for Gatti.
Round four was more of the same; Mayweather showed how technically sound he is, how smart and quick his moves are. He put on a clinic, and by the end of the round, Gatti had to be wondering if there was any hope for his cause.
Rounds 5 and 6 were punishing. Mayweather was as fine tuned as could be, and his confidence only rose after assessing the damage he was inflicting on Gatti, who by now had his eyes almost closed, his face lumpy and swollen.
The end came at the end of the sixth round, when Buddy McGirt hugged his fighter in the corner and let the referee know his man had seen enough. McGirt did the right thing, no question about that, and I commend him for being compassionate and caring. After the stoppage, Arturo Gatti sobbed in his corner, looking like he had ran into a truck, while Mayweather Jr. dropped to his knees and unleashed his emotions.
I’m sure it had been a rough campaign for both men; much had been said between the camps, and even HBO promoted the fight portraying Floyd as the bad guy, exposing his off the ring legal issues, while neglecting to do the same with Gatti’s previous run ins with the law, of which he has had a few.
All seemed forgotten, though, as the champions met and hugged in Mayweather’s corner. Both fighters expressed mutual respect, and the fight ended in a great display of sportsmanship.
Certainly, Gatti’s career came to a crossroad tonight, and without a doubt, Floyd Mayweather’s did as well. I believe that after his performance tonight, ‘Pretty Boy’ has reached the superstar status he has longed for; acceptance and recognition of his superior skills can’t be questioned anymore. While Gatti’s crossroad seems to be pointing to a career ending, Mayweather’s crossroad points to a very bright and lucrative future.
The other two fighters who reached a crossroad in their careers this evening are Vivian Harris and Carlos Maussa, who fought for Harris’ WBA title prior to Gatti and Mayweather.
The now former champion Vivian Harris is a fighter who has spent a lot of time chasing Mayweather, singing his own praises and avoiding Ricky Hatton like the plague. I witnessed his wacky behavior first-hand when Mayweather fought Henry Bruseles in Miami. Harris yelled and screamed throughout the fight, trying very hard to get Mayweather’s attention, while inconveniencing all those who sat around him. The tirade continued when, after the fight, he tried to crash Floyd’s dressing room, while the press was conducting a quick question and answer session with Bruseles’ conqueror. Harris misbehaved during this promotion as well. It happened during a recent press conference in New York, when he refused to yield the mic to Mayweather Jr., forcing security to separate both men.
Tonight, in the fourth defense of his title, he faced the challenge of relatively unknown Carlos Maussa, and while it is true that the night belonged to Mayweather Jr. and Gatti, Maussa did his best to come in a very close second in the attention-getting department.
Perhaps Harris lost his focus, or perhaps Main Events matchmaker and Team Harris underestimated the Colombian challenger, but the truth of the matter is that Carlos Maussa took Harris’ heart and will, on his way to stopping him seconds into the seventh round.
Maussa is not the sport’s most technically sound fighter, but he is a warrior; he comes to fight, and always gives his best effort. Maybe Harris and his handlers bought into their own hype and underestimated the heart of Carlos Maussa; if that is what happened, it turned out to be a huge mistake.
Carlos Maussa was hit by the best Harris had to offer, was rocked several times, but never quit. He fought back; he taunted Harris, and even dropped his hands in front of the defending champion a couple of times. He roughhoused; he pushed Harris down and hit him behind the head when Harris would rush him. Oh and did I mention he head butted him once? Unintentionally, of course.
By the end of the sixth round, Harris looked like a beaten man. He drank a lot of water in his corner, and his body language was indicative of a fighter who had seen enough. A wide looping left caught Vivian flush 43 seconds into the seventh round; he went down hard and never even tried to beat the count, content to argue about having beaten the count seconds after the referee had stopped counting. How typical!
Carlos Maussa, the humble Christian preacher from Colombia, shocked the world tonight on his way to becoming the new WBA junior welterweight champion. It was great seeing South Florida’s own promoter Felix “Tuto” Zabala, Jr. as well as trainer Roberto Quesada –among others- rushing to celebrate center ring with their man. Congratulations to you all…
Harris’ career came to a crossroad tonight, and if nothing else, the huge serving of humble pie might just be what he, his trainer and his promoter needed. Carlos Maussa is a not so perfect champion in a division full of talent, and his crossroad, if traveled with caution, points to good things; a few nice paychecks are sure to come his way. However, the realization that on this night, he dealt his own brand of lightning and thunder to become a world champion may be the most rewarding part of his future travels down destiny’s crossroad.