On This Day: When De La Hoya Was Too Good (And Too Big) For Gatti

By James Slater - 03/24/2023 - Comments

During his astonishing blood, guts, and thunder career, the one and only Arturo Gatti fought two superstars, these being Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Junior. Both greats stopped Gatti in five largely one-sided rounds. On this day back in 2001, it was De La Hoya who fought Gatti, with Oscar briefly going to war with “Thunder” at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

It was a thoroughly entertaining fight, as almost all of Gatti’s fights were. Yet the sheer size difference was just too much, and Gatti, try as he might, was overwhelmed by “The Golden Boy.” The fight, fought at 147 pounds, officially saw just a one-pound advantage for De La Hoya, who had tipped in at 147, with Gatti weighing in at 146. But the weights of the two men on the night told the story.

De La Hoya came out fast, attempting to stamp his authority on the fight that was dubbed ‘A Real Hero Returns.’ De La Hoya, 32-2, was coming off a decision loss to Sugar Shane Mosley and he wanted a KO win. Gatti was decked in the opening session, this by a De La Hoya left hook to the head, and the writing was on the wall. For as supernaturally tough as Gatti was, he was unable to get a real foothold in this fight. Gatti, who fired his own left hook with venom and occasionally landed with it, saw his best shots bounce off De La Hoya. Soon, as was also the case in most of his big fights, Gatti was busted up around the eye, his right eye soon a bloody mess.

Gatti dug in and he bit down, his courage as we know simply legendary. And for three rounds, this fight, which would have been over with had De La Hoya been in with a lesser man, raged and thrilled. Sure, De La Hoya was getting the better of things in a big way, but Gatti’s heroics were enough to get fans roaring, with approval mostly.

Some wanted the fight to be stopped – “how much of this can Gatti take?” asked Larry Merchant. De La Hoya was deadly accurate and he scored with some truly hurtful combinations. Gatti was hurt to head and body, and his face showed the pain. De La Hoya gave Gatti a working over in the fifth – “target practice,” Jim Lampley called it – and the white towel was thrown in by Gatti’s corner.

Gatti had once again given his all. But on this night he was in with not only a great fighter, but with a much, much bigger great fighter. De La Hoya was as ruthless as he appeared special. If Gatti, now 33-5, had not been the once-in-a-lifetime warrior he was, his career could well have been over with after the hammering he took here. Instead, Gatti’s legendary rivalry with Micky Ward was still to come.

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