13.07.07 - By Gary Jones: Arturo Gatti (40-8, 31 KOs) makes his ring return on Saturday night when he takes on The Contender series star Alfonso Gomez (16-3-2, 7 KOs) at the Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The fight isn’t for a title, but rather more like a tune-up for Gatti, who plans on taking on rising star Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. later in the year, in November.
Article posted on 14.07.2007
Other than his “Contender” appeal, Gomez, 26, seems to have mainly been selected because he’s a slower, plodder-type fighter, the kind that Gatti has traditionally done well against. However, at this stage of his career nothing is a given for Gatti, 35, whom is starting to show his age and has badly lost two out of his last three bouts.
Gatti, as usual, will be fighting in front of his adopted hometown crowd in New Jersey, a place that will likely be very loud by fight time on Saturday night, with 12,238 screaming Gatti fans, hoping that he still has enough left to defeat Gomez. Gatti, now 35-years-old, is coming off a year lay, following his 9th round TKO loss to Carlos Baldomir in July 2006, a fight that Gatti looked old and past his prime.
Although Gatti apologists will likely point to the fact that Gatti used an immensely stupid strategy against Baldomir, in which he stood directly in front of him and tried to trade shots with him, instead of using ring movement to keep out of punching range. However, in fairness to Gatti, he probably would have lost no matter what strategy he used against Baldomir, since he just looked overmatched against the tough Argentinean fighter.
The bigger problem, however, is that Gatti’s boxing skills have appeared to have visibly eroded in the past two years with him losing twice by stoppages in one-sided fights. In particular, one of his losses, a brutal 6th round TKO loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in June 25, 2005, was the type of beat down that can have a lasting physical effect. In that bout, Gatti took tremendous punishment, absorbing a tremendous beating from the first round until the fight was mercifully stopped in the 6th.
Next, Gatti returned to action in January 2006, stopping previously unbeaten Danish fighter Thomas Damgaard in the 11th round. However, even in winning, Gatti looked slow, and not nearly the same fighter he was a couple fights earlier, seeming as if the combination of all his ring wars he’d been in and his advancing age, had suddenly hit him all at once. Though Gatti got the win, it did little to erase the image of him taking such a ferocious beating against Mayweather a fight earlier nor did it raise his stature any, considering that Damgaard isn't anywhere close to being a top level welterweight.
Gomez, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and now living in Whittier, California, is a busy pressure fighter, and throws lots of punches, though none with any real power, mind you. Perhaps for that reason alone, he’s an ideal opponent for the aging Gatti, who does well with opposition that stands directly in front of him, allowing him to work angles.
Of course, it helps that Gomez has little power, because if he did, it wouldn’t matter how slow he is, he’d likely bust up Gatti’s face and take him out in short order. So far, Gomez has faced almost exclusively lower B and C-grade opposition, and has done well against the C-level fighters. However, on the three occasions he’s stepped it up a notch – against Ishe Smith, Peter Manfredo Jr. and Jesse Feliciano - he’s been soundly beaten. Don’t expect anything different against Gatti, who is better than all three, though not by much at this stage.
Look for Gatti come out strong, and pressure Gomez in the early rounds, perhaps try to fluster the younger fighter with big shots early. The last thing that Gatti wants, though, is a long grueling fight, since his age, and his scar tissue around his eyes, could lead to problems as the fight gets into the later rounds. Gomez, however, has an excellent chin, which would indicate that a knockout scenario is unlikely. That said, Gatti needs to win the early rounds while he’s still strong, thus allowing himself the comfort of being able to coast a little down the stretch.
For his part, Gomez needs to make Gatti work, force him to fight constantly, and hit him as much as possible in the face with jabs. If Gomez can hit him just enough, Gatti may quit on his stool or be stopped on cuts. As Baldomir showed in his fight with Gatti, if you put hands on Gatti for a prolonged period of time, he folds like a deck of cards, and can easily be beaten.