January 30th, 2006 – By Frank Gonzalez Jr.: Jersey City’s Arturo Gatti (40-7, 30 KO’s) faced unbeaten Thomas Damgaard (31-1, 27 KO’s) of Denmark Saturday night in Atlantic City and gave the fans another good show. This was the first time Damgaard fought outside of Europe and Arturo Gatti has to be the toughest opponent he ever faced. Damgaard’s last opponent was Bruno Sakabunda, who had a record of 1-6. Gatti’s last opponent was none other than possibly the best boxer in the sport, Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was 34-0 going into the fight.
It was a tough fight for both men and both showed a lot of heart and grit for eleven rounds. Damgaard was relentless in his close range attacks and Gatti had the better footwork and firepower.
Damgaard got off to a slow start, watching Gatti rack up the points, doing most of the punching, often times, to the body of the Dane, who kept his guard too high, leaving his body open. By the second round, Damgaard landed a few clean shots and began to press the action. Gatti boxed with discipline and put the first two rounds in the bank.
Gatti switched from conventional to southpaw often enough to throw Damgaard off his rhythm but Damgaard showed his quality by landing the more effective punches in the third round, initiated by a series of clean shots that rocked Arturo.
The fourth round was action packed as Damgaard stirred things to a brawl. Gatti took the bait and received more than he gave. Though Gatti landed a big right at the bell that staggered Damgaard, it was too little to win the round.
There were a few close rounds that I scored for Damgaard because he may not have looked so pretty but he was effective at dictating the pace and terms with his inside attack, where he often peppered Gatti with short-range punches that met the mark.
Damgaard’s strategy was to get Gatti into close quarters and force a brawl. At times, that strategy was effective. The roar of the crowd often steered Gatti towards doing what made him famous, brawling back and forth. Damgaard, who is tough as nails, exploited that when he could. Damgaard’s workmanlike approach wasn’t very stylish but was effective enough to win rounds three to five by landing the cleaner punches. He battered Gatti with voluminous punches that had to be softer than they looked since Gatti, a known bleeder, never saw his own blood in the fight.
Gatti’s trainer (Buddy McGirt) was quick to remind him to relax, use his speed, stay outside and use his jab to set up his power punches.
The sixth round was where the tide turned. Gatti spent a lot of time fighting out of the southpaw stance and making things complicated for Damgaard, who still managed to do well but saw Gatti coming on stronger. Though both did about equal damage, it became clear that the momentum had shifted in Gatti’s favor.
In the seventh, Gatti retook the momentum as he landed a right hand that shook Damgaard but also left Gatti shaking his hand in pain. Gatti’s mobility and ring generalship proved handy as both fighters were a bit slower as the seventh came to a close.
Damgaard landed some good punches in the eighth and Gatti was doing a lot of missing. Both showed a lot of grit but Damgaard’s blood stained face looked a lot worse for wear by this point.
Damgaard pressed Gatti into the ropes early in the ninth round and wailed on him. That got Gatti excited and he retaliated with a barrage of punches that got the crowd onto their feet. Gatti landed some good body shots and kept throwing both hands in spite of the pain. It was a valiant effort by Gatti, who drew still more blood from Damgaard’s already puffed up, bloodied face.
In the tenth, Damgaard continued to press aggressively, forcing Gatti to back up and move out of range. At one point, Damgaard landed a few clean shots and Gatti looked to be losing the round but suddenly, in classic Arturo Gatti fashion, Gatti came on strong, throwing hard combinations of rights and lefts without regard for the pain. After Gatti’s onslaught,
Damgaard’s face looked like a puss filled pimple about to burst. After the bell, his corner man asked him if he wanted to continue. Damgaard didn’t look too enthusiastic.
Early in the eleventh, Damgaard took to dirty tactics, and held Gatti’s head with his right hand and hammered him with his left. The referee, Lindsey Page, who had warned Damgaard a few times prior, stopped the action to take a point for the infraction. When action resumed, Gatti landed a big right hand that put Damgaard on Queer Street as his legs wobbled beneath him. The ref stepped between them and stopped the fight. Though Damgaard was staggering, bleeding and looking like a ragamuffin, I thought the stoppage was premature. The time was 2:54, with just six seconds left in the round. With everything favoring Arturo Gatti, like the HBO announce team, the crowded arena of Gatti fans and the American referee, that stoppage seemed unfair.
In his return to the 147-pound division, Gatti was the winner by TKO 11. The prize was marginal, the IBA Welterweight Title. The question is, can Gatti make any real noise in a division that features the likes of Antonio Margarito (the man nobody wants to fight), Floyd Mayweather, Carlos Baldomir (who just beat Zab Judah), Luis Collazo, Cory Spinks, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley and Joel Julio to name a few? I say, “Hell yeah! Why not?” Gatti still has a few fights in him and has consistently improved his boxing skills under Buddy McGirt. He may not have what it takes to beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. but Gatti does have two-fisted power, huge heart and a tremendous ability to sell tickets so, why not? At least with Arturo Gatti, you always get your money’s worth.
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