Mayweather-Gatti: In The Zone

22.06.05 - By Wray Edwards: This is an article about how Floyd Mayweather desperately needs to be soundly thrashed by Arturo Gatti. He doesn’t know it now, but he will owe Arturo a huge debt of gratitude if he can somehow manage to come unhinged and get totally and ignominiously humbled. Everything depends on this.. His whole career is at stake. On Superbowl weekend there was a Golden Boy boxing event called “Superfight I." It was the premier offering of what Oscar De La Hoya’s people characterized as a regular side-show to subsequent Superbowls. The main attraction was Librado Andrade who showed some real stuff and put an exclamation point on the evening. The under-card had a whole mess of southeastern fighters and some local guys from right there in Jacksonville.

There was this one scrawny, pale boxer who was getting totally waxed. He was so overmatched that even complete first-timers to a boxing match could tell. It was a four round affair, and this guy was getting torn up so badly his relatives were bleeding.

At the end of each round he would gather up his body parts and take them back to his corner where his orthopedic surgeon would try to re-assemble him for the next round. The ref should probably have stopped the contest, but seemed unable to do so, having been mesmerized by the carnage.

As he was pulled to his feet by his trainer for round three, I caught a glimpse of that misty courage one saw in Lovemore’s eyes each time he stood to face Cotto. Then, this tattered fighter suddenly let out a “whoop”, began to dance, and went out there like a skier hopping over the crest of a slope he knew would be his personal crash site before he got to the bottom. He was determined to make the most of the violent ride as long as he could hold it together and have some fun before he augured in. He was in the zone…the boxing zone. It is a blend of painful, concussive chaos and surging energies which strike out from the self to pillage and maim.

No one who has not been in the ring, or on a class five river rapids, or hung out over some other dangerous edge would be able to understand. Mayorga was in the zone as he tempted fate at the hands of Trinidad. Corrales and Castillo were there. Elder-Burton, Gatti-Ward and Zab Judah (in or out of the ring) are all there. Nate Campbell was there to such a degree that he dropped his gloves in the face of Robbie Peden and was clocked to the deck. He was too far into the zone and cried like a baby when he realized what had happened.

Sitting quietly in the corner of a living room one evening this writer listened to Buddy McGirt make random comments about Arturo Gatti. This was not long after Arturo had defeated Branco by, among other things, demonstrating that he had listened carefully to Buddy when McGirt had encouraged him to make adjustments to prepare for the straight-up classical boxing style he was bound to face with the European. It was quite amazing to watch Arturo effectively emulate the style.

One who has spent any time at all around McGirt knows that he can be effectively serious when necessary, and at other times morph into a party animal and enthusiastic fun-seeker. Arturo Gatti has a similar bi-polarity. Though he says he’s calmed down a lot, you can take Gatti away from the party, but you can’t take the party out of Arturo. There is a link here to being in the zone, you know…like when Arnie says, “Let’s party” with that big, disarming smile which means you are about to die.

Buddy was first on the subject of Gatti’s behavior in the ring and general comments about him as a dedicated professional sportsman and avid trainer. He showed a natural concern for Arturo’s bent to lean into withering fire and give as good as he gets until one or the other comes apart at the rivet lines. I was in for a surprise. Buddy had always seemed a bit flip considering his responsibilities. This was different. He showed genuine respect for Gatti the man…boxer or not.

Therein lies a great clue to the dynamics between this fighter, this trainer and Floyd Mayweather. The test on the twenty-fifth, it would appear, will be between professional attitude and human courage on the part of Arturo, and, if we are to believe Mayweather, angry, boastful hostility combined with raw, youthful talent.

Though Gatti has been drawn in a bit by Floyd’s trash-mouthing he seems ill-equipped to really get down and dirty as Floyd seems to want the encounter to be. You know…personal…vicious…destructive, unless it’s just and act (doubtful). Or maybe he just figures if he ratchets up the interpersonal tension, the PPV will increase and put more toy money in his part of the purse. Gatti is more of a pair-bonding sort. Kinda like what often happened in highschool when two guys would have a fight and then become best buddies. To wit: Gatti and Ward.

Somehow it seems unlikely that Floyd and Arturo will want to hang out with each other. Well now, perhaps we should all sing Two Different Worlds, we live in two different worlds. But that’s just the point, isn’t it? Somehow I can’t see Gatti and Mayweather lying on gurneys in the ER joking about their boxing match. In Boardwalk Hall Arturo is going to feel supported, cheered and at home. Mayweather will, most likely, feel alienated despite his bravado. There is a tenet in biology which holds that an animal in its own territory has a natural advantage over an invader.

He knows where all the hiding places are. He knows the lay of the land and he is defending his home; a great incentive. Certainly Tszyu understands that in spades now. Mayweather’s face seemed twisted with hatred and arrogance on the split screen the other night. If he really is the wild-eyed vengeful fiend he is projecting, it must be quite uncomfortable for him. He parades his Bentleys and crusty bling with infantile panache. What’s he compensating for?

Gatti was laid back and sort of blue-collar matter-of-fact about the whole thing, unless, of course you peer closely into those scar-tissue squinted eyes. There is an almost inscrutable beam of penetrating vigilance emanating from them peepers. When he smiles, it’s mostly with his mouth. The eyes remain almost hidden, guarded slits which protect the windows of his boxer’s soul.

Of his 33 wins, Gatti has KO’d all but three. Of His 33 wins, Mayweather has twenty-two. Gatti is 91% KO when he wins, 85% overall. Mayweather is 66% overall. That’s nearly a twenty point spread. Both records are impressive but the drop’em in their tracks potential goes to Gatti. The prolonged attrition route favors Floyd. Both fighters have gone deep into many of their fights, but Gatti has been shorter in his last two. Floyd’s life is spent less, he’s about five years younger…youth advantage to Floyd.

Teddy Atlas recently said of Arturo it’s so bad he even “bleeds during the National Anthem.” That is a significant observation. Where he’s bleeding and where its going might have a huge effect on the outcome of the fight. The ref had better keep a close watch on Floyd’s head and elbows. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem like Gatti is ready to rock-and-roll until he sips a bit of his own blood. It’s probably a good thing that Branco didn’t cut him.

If Arturo gets into the zone by round three, Floyd is going to have a long evening, if he’s lucky. When Gatti zones out he kinda goes on automatic pilot. While his body deals with evading and absorbing the enemy’s onslaught, he slips into the gunner’s seat and unleashes the random chaos which Jessie James and Loenard found so unappealing.

140 is a dreamland of Boxing confections. Just looking at the rankings causes one to drool over the possibilities. The pity of it is, that there is so much talent and potential between one twenty-five and one-sixty, that with all the sanctions in play, a true linear shaking out is very difficult, if not impossible. That being the case, we will have to just count our blessings that this match was finally made. God only knows what would have happened if Gatti had not called Mayweather’s bluff.

Gatti’s six losses must have certainly given him a broader perspective than the pristine career of Floyd. Arturo will, most likely, retire before Mayweather. Floyd has had and presumably will have a fabulous career for years to come. He is really exciting to watch and a great talent. My pickup truck was not nearly as effective a tool until after it got its first dent. Then I just drove the sucker to do the jobs instead of wasting energy worrying about the shiny beast.

Floyd needs a ding to become human. He needs a ding to appear human. His arrogant touting of undefeated efforts alienates him from the common man. We all have faults and failings, and in forgiving those we identify with each other and come closer together. Floyd is in a zone, but it is the wrong zone. Nobody thinks of Arturo as looking down on them. He, therefore is a regular guy…one of us. Floyd ignorantly parades around in and with his status symbols thinking others will be impressed and be drawn to him. Wrong!

Ali was famous and popular throughout his career, but he was not truly loved until he failed, became ill, and bore it all with grace and humor. No human on earth with any sense of our mutual plight could resist a lump in the throat as the butterfly of boxing lit the Olympic Torch.

If Arturo should knock Floyd down off his high horse, he would do him a great favor. He would give Mayweather an incomparable opportunity to be a regular guy; Talented…but regular. Then he would reap what he truly craves, if he handles it well: to be human, and forgiven. That, you see, is a primary step on the road to respect. It would even make him a better boxer by completely removing any pretense of perfection, and the anxiety and trepidation that goes along with protecting such a fiction. From that day on he will be a complete fighter, not just an undefeated Prima-Donna.

We are all blessed that these two have found the courage to face each other for all to see. May the best boxer win.

Article posted on 22.06.2005

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