Arturo Gatti KOs unbeaten challenger Dorin

25.07.04 - By Patrick Corcoran: Two tough old cusses from boxing’s deepest division were the center of attention in Atlantic City Saturday night. 140-pounders Jesse James Leija and Arturo Gatti both staved off old age for another night in sterling performances over game opponents. There were whispers that Leija and Gatti wouldn’t be so fortunate. Both fighters are close to a decade removed from being a prospect and have been through more wars than Boeing in the meantime, so it’s not a surprise that much of the boxing public expected one or both of them to show their age.

Four times Arturo Gatti has been half of the Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. He typically fights with such a spectacular disregard for defense that even Gatti’s slower fights are explosive, and his best fights are legendary. He has developed a rabid following in venues across the country. Arturo Gatti is the sport’s most crowd-pleasing fighter, but such status does not come without a heavy toll. And so it is not surprising that leading up to Saturday night, there were many wondering aloud if this would finally be the night where Gatti grew old.

Up against a sparkplug of a fighter in Leonard Dorin, it was conceivable that the 32-year-old Gatti would finally show the scars of his 40-plus bouts. Dorin’s relentless, straight-ahead style gave Paul Spadafora fits, and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t challenge Gatti as well. Although two years [older] than Gatti, Dorin has only about half the number of fights and a fraction of the ring rust on his body. Dorin proved against Spadafora that he can throw clusters of shots all night long without slowing down.But of course, Spadafora doesn’t quite have the left hook that Gatti does. If anyone thought that surviving a battle Spadafora would prepare Dorin for twelve rounds with Gatti, they learned otherwise in the second round, when Gatti scored a one-punch knockout and drove Dorin from the ranks of the unbeaten. With that one ferocious shot to the liver, Gatti demonstrated that he is not a shot fighter, not even close.

Gatti opened the fight using a defensive jab, and periodically stepping forward with crisp combinations. Although less than two rounds in not nearly enough time to make an accurate assessment about a fighter’s ability, Gatti was effective in moving in and out of range, landing good punches without ever being seriously threatened. Dorin was never able to make his away inside for a sustained period of time, and he was reduced to throwing lunging shots from a long distance in the first, and, as it turned out, the only two rounds.

Dorin said after the fight that he thought that he would be able to force his way to the inside within five rounds, but before he had a chance to let that strategy play out, the fight was over.

In his second round knockout of Dorin, Arturo Gatti fully realized a style that will satisfy everyone with a vested interest in Gatti’s career. The Gatti of Saturday provides sufficient action for his fans, avoids the bloodbaths that will inevitably shorten his career, and is a dangerous threat to the cream of the junior welterweight crop. Of course, the fight might have finished differently had it continued, but if Gatti step into the ring with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. or Kostya Tszyu, he will be well served to follow the strategy he executed in his demolition of Leonard Dorin.

Had 38-year-old Jesse James Leija dropped his fight to prospect Francisco “Panchito” Bojado, it wouldn’t be because he got old all at once, but rather because Leija remembered that he already [was] old.

Leija’s career has already been through countless peaks and valleys and twists and turns. Like Gatti, he has been cut more times than a card deck. It looked as if Leija was destined to be yet another test to be passed by a Main Events prospect, but instead Leija put forth his best performance of the last several years, and delivered a serious setback to Panchito’s young career. Working behind an effective jab and a consistent left hook to the body, Leija weathered both an early and a late storm from his 21-year-old opponent, eking out a split decision victory. But Leija’s performance was far more impressive than the split decision victory would indicate. He captured the first round as fighting as he would most of the evening—moving forward and throwing scores of punches. After eating a handful of heavy power shots and taking a knockdown in the second round, Leija did not shrink from the fight. Like the cagey veteran he is, he made the necessary adjustments, most notably avoiding Bojado’s left hook and throwing his own to the body, and pressed the action from that point forward. Leija dominated the middle rounds. He was more mobile, threw more punches, and generally looked younger than an opponent 17 years his junior.

Bojado was throwing only one or two punches at time in rounds three through seven, often laying on the ropes and absorbing dozens of shots without firing back. He seemingly had no taste for a slugfest with Leija, which is odd because Bojado would seem to have a significant edge in power. Bojado did press the action a bit more in the final three rounds, but it was not enough to land the victory. Furthermore, even though he was more active down the stretch, Bojado never came close to matching the dominance Leija displayed for the middle part of the fight. Bojado’s best punches did not deter Leija’s constant offensive assault, and Bojado ate a good shot for every one he landed. Even if one were to give him the final three rounds, they were very close rounds, whereas the rounds Leija won were remarkably one-sided.

Leija never seemed hurt and, shockingly, was somehow never cut.Leija has solidified his position as a gatekeeper to the elite in the junior welterweight division for at least a few more fights, but Bojado’s situation is truly up in the air. He must answer questions about who will be his trainer and what kind of fighter he wants to be. Bojado is still very young, but for most Saturday night, Leija looked even younger.

Article posted on 25.07.2004

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