Gatti-Dorin: A Last Hurrah or The Beginning of the End?

05.06.04 - By Paul Ruby - - Arturo Gatti is perhaps the most exciting fighter of the last 15 years. Like Joe Frazier, Gatti has appeared in Ring Magazineís ĎFight of the Yearí on four occasions, trailing only Muhammad Aliís six and Carmen Basilioís five. Gattiís face-first style has endeared him to fans since early in his career, and he also shown great heart and resiliency in bouncing back from adversity. In short, Arturo Gatti embodies what fans love about boxing and boxers.

No good thing, though, lasts forever. Arturo Gattiís body has absorbed a tremendous amount of abuse over the years, recurrent hand injuries have taken their toll, and his reflexes have shown signs of slipping. I consider myself a huge fan of Gattiís and hurts to say those things, but unfortunately itís the sad reality. Boxing is a brutal sport, and years of punishment eventually take their toll on even the grittiest fighter. All the heart in the world cannot stave off the hands of father time forever. If Gatti gets past Leo Dorin this July, I sincerely hope he takes one or two more fights, hopefully for the big money he deserves, and then considers calling it a career.

Letís examine the Gatti-Dorin fight scheduled for July 24 in Atlantic City:

Arturo Gatti, at this point in his career, has two great strengths - his heart and his trainer, Buddy McGirt. Gatti is the first to credit McGirt for the boxer-puncher style heís tried hard to adopt since his loss to Oscar de la Hoya three years ago. Although his fights with Micky Ward were action slugfests, Gatti did not fight with the constant reckless abandon that peppered his fights years ago. Gatti always had a tendency to turn relatively easy fights into brutal slugfests. While this was entertaining for fans, it was not always best for Gatti. Gatti holds a significant physical advantage in this fight in terms of height and reach. He stands four inches taller than Dorin, and possesses six more inches of reach than the Romanian. He would be well-served work off of his jab and let the shorter Dorin know that it will be tough to get inside. Additionally, Gatti has shown more consistent power with knockouts in three quarters of his wins, while Dorin has stopped his opponent about a third of the time.

Thereís so much to like about Arturo Gatti, that it really is no fun at all to discuss his flaws. First, I believe the 30 brutal rounds he went with Micky Ward have taken their toll on him physically. He was not the same fighter in their third fight that he was in the first one. The fight was just as entertaining, but both menís reflexes and precision had visibly decreased in just 13 months. Another example of this progression was the amount of time Gatti was hit by Gianluca Brancoís straight right. Personally, I thought that was a troubling sign because Branco had virtually no power and pedestrian speed. Gatti won the fight, but he looked very human in doing it. Gattiís most ardent supporters will cite a hand injury as a reason for Gattiís subpar performance last time out, and I can understand that sentiment. Still, I think the more viable explanation is that the wars with Ward, Robinson, de la Hoya, Manfredy, Ruelas, Rodriguez, and others over the years have started catching up with ďThunder.Ē Both Gatti and Dorin have a propensity to cut and swell more than most other fighters; letís hope this doesnít cause a premature stoppage.

Personally, I believe a number of people are underestimating Leonard Dorin in this fight. There are two things for which I feel heís getting a bad rap: Punching power and stature. Many fighters run up sensational KO rates early in their career only to watch their power fizzle against better opposition. Dorin is not one of those fighters. Although heís scored a low percentage of knockout wins, he has managed to score them at regular intervals throughout his career as the caliber of opponents has risen. Dorin is perhaps best described as a pressure fighter who fights in the European style. Although that sounds like an oxymoron, itís fairly accurate in Dorinís case. He controls tempo effectively, but perhaps lacks the killer instinct of many American or Mexican fighters in the ring because it was bred out of him as an amateur.

Dorinís size and its significance are likewise being accorded far too discussion. Too many casual observers are blowing him off as a career lightweight. While his most famous fight- a draw with Paul Spadafora- was staged at lightweight, it is important to note that he has weighed at or within the 135 pound lightweight limit for only six of his 23 fights. Dorinís first professional fight was at 140. Conversely, Gattiís career began at 127 and heís come in at 135 or less in 30 of his 43 fights. In other words, Gattiís reach advantage is significant, but these fighters are closer in actual physical size than many would like to believe.

Leonard Dorin will make for an exciting fight with Gatti, but he has some important disadvantages that he will need to overcome in order to win. The first is reach, and the second is experience. Dorin biggest fight came against Paul Spadafora, while Arturo Gatti will be making his 18th appearance on HBO. There will be more eyes on Dorin than at any time during his career. Dorinís ability to take a punch is also a question mark. He certainly does not have a bad chin, but it is relatively untested. This provides one of the intriguing storylines of this fight - The ability of Dorin to take a punch against the brittle nature of Arturo Gattiís hands. Again, there is little reason to believe Dorin cannot take a punch well, especially due to his stature, simply that he has been untested in that department. He was largely unfazed by light-hitting Paul Spadafora, but its worth noting that he got swollen up pretty good in that contest.

Honestly, I think itís a little premature to pick a winner in this fight. My heart definitely says Gatti, but my head hasnít totally decided yet (mostly because my heart is so pro-Gatti). This will be an exciting fight, and better treat for Arturoís fans than the Branco fight. Dorinís pressure style and short stature make it easy to pick against him. So does his lack of big-fight experience. Still, heís long on heart and has taken less punishment over the years than Gatti. Nonetheless, I canít help but feel this Dorin was chosen, like Branco, to signal the start of Gattiís swan song in the fight game and, for Arturoís sake, I hope that is the case. Thereís talk of a match with Paul Spadafora if heís available and Gatti wins. The common thread between Branco, Dorin, and Spadafora is that they all possess marginal, at best, punching power. This is a good match-up for Gatti because, as I stated early, his reflexes are not what they once were.

More than anything, I hope Gatti can win this fight and looks respectable doing it. Everyone knows the HBO is his network and Atlantic City is his town. I hope he will do enough to truly earn a decision win over a tough customer in Leo Dorin. Beyond that, I hope he can take on Spadafora and perhaps a big money fight thereafter and ultimately ride off into the sunset with his health, his happiness, and a boatload of hard-earned money.

Questions or comments:

Article posted on 05.06.2004

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