How Do You Spell Courage? G-A-T-T-I …That’s How!

29.01.06 – By Wray Edwards: Coming off of a brutal loss to Floyd Mayweather last June, in which he lost his WBC Light Welterweight Championship, Arturo “Thunder” Gatti stepped back into the ring to once again define the sport of Boxing. Lesser men might have hung it up after such a humiliating defeat as Arturo suffered at the hands of Pretty Boy. In an eleven round banger Gatti took on Thomas “Lionheart” Damgaard from Morkov, Denmark. The Danish fighter with an undefeated record of 37-0-0, 27 KO’s gave a good account of himself in a fight which sounded mild echoes of Gatti-Ward from time-to-time..

Once again the rafters of Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City rung with the sweet music of Arturo’s loyal fans as they clapped and cheered for their home-town hero. Men like Gatti and Mayorga subscribe to the school of Boxing which allows that if you have no particular defense, it’s OK to take one to give one, providing you have the chin for it. The overture to the Arturo Gatti-Thomas Damgaard show was the broadcast replay of Manny Pacquiao-Erik Morales match.

From Patterson, to East Orange, from Hoboken and Union City down Bergerline Avenue to Newark, the Gatti faithful in homes, hotels and bars gathered around to watch their favorite guy (since Frank Sinatra) do it again. Very few fighters in the world would be able to step into the ring and follow the HBO replay of Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales with such ringing conviction. Still under the watchful eye of Buddy McGirt, Arturo retains the expanded repertoire of punches and footwork we first saw when he fought Gianluca Branco two years ago.

Amid doubts by some that Gatti could make a successful transition to full-time Welterweight challenges, Arturo hopped right back in the boxing saddle and rode roughshod over the determined Thomas Damgaard. The Dane came with a move ahead, busy style which had Gatti backing away through most of the fight. Thomas had obviously less power in his strikes, but did demonstrate an accuracy rate just slightly less than that of Gatti. Many of Damgaard’s punches found the mark as Arturo would just get careless as he moved away or held his left too low.

ROUNDS ONE, TWO AND THREE were s series of escalations as the two fighters warmed to the task. Thomas was pretty good at cutting off the ring, and was rather successful at getting Arturo in positions which forced him to fight Damgaard’s fight. Every time Gatti attempted to stand at the best range for his punches to be effective, Thomas would move slightly closer to Arturo in order for Damgaard to punch effectively. This was a constant theme throughout the fight.

ROUND FOUR saw the return of Arturo’s old nemesis the injured right hand. At 1:27 he strikes Damgaard with a crisp right which causes Thomas to hang on for a bit. As Referee Lindsey Paige separated the two Gatti (1:20) begins to shake his right arm…the old telltale sign that he has again injured his right. Gatti had been switching to southpaw before that, possibly to confuse the lefty Thomas, or perhaps his hand was already bothering him. Gatti staggered Damgaard with a terrific right just before the bell. We gave Damgaard the fourth as he bested Arturo forty-seven to twenty-nine percent landed, 39/37 Gatti leads.

At 1:22 of ROUND FIVE Thomas drives a right into Gatti’s cup but the ref misses the low hit. 0:12 Damgaard holds Gatti behind his head with his right forearm and punches away drawing a warning from the ref. Lampley comments incorrectly, IMO, that the warning was for another low blow. Jim further speculates that due to Gatti’s aggressive use of his right during the round that it is not injured. Lampley seriously underestimates Gatti’s pain tolerance and courage.

Gatti starts off ROUND FIVE in lefty stance. At one point Gatti delivers a tremendous right uppercut to Damgaard’s solar plexus. Arturo had been working the body with regularity since the second round. Hand it to Damgaard, he’s no Dorin when it comes to taking body shots. They didn’t seem to have any effect.

After ROUND SIX Larry Merchant remarked that Gatti was to Damgaard as Mayweather was to Gatti. Drivel…Gatti never got to Floyd as Damgaard got to Arturo. Gatti was just careless and had no respect for Damgaard’s punching power.

ROUND EIGHT…0:40 Gatti drives a straight right – left hook which staggers Thomas. Each time Gatti gets a clean shot the effect is greater and greater as the fight progresses. At the end of this round Gatti signals Buddy that his hand is hurting. McGirt says, “I know, I know, I know.”

ROUND NINE saw Gatti and Damgaard really tee-off on each other. Gatti walked right through most of Thomas’ strikes and toward the end of the round set himself firmly in left stance and just blistered Damgaard with lefts.

1:08 ROUND TEN Gatti delivers a hard uppercut to Damgaard’s midsection and just doubles over with the pain from his injured hand. During the break Damgaard’s corner asks if he wants to continue. Thomas almost says no.

ROUND ELEVEN 2:23 Damgaard hooks his right forearm over the back of Gatti’s neck and proceeds to whack away at Arturo’s head with his left as the ref charges in to pull him off. Thomas is getting desperate and he gets a point deducted for his infraction. 1:42 Gatti combos Thomas who starts to wilt. 0:12 Gatti throws a straight right…then 0:11 a glancing left…then 0:10 a clipping right cross and Damgaard’s knees buckle. He staggers to his right…then to his left trying desperately not to go down.

Referee Paige, seeing Thomas on queer street, steps between the fighters and 0:07 waves the fight over. So ends Arturo Gatti’s reentry to championship status.

In the Pantheon of Boxing it is not always the highest ranked fighters or the famous ones who show such courage and character, but when a world class boxer like Arturo steps back into our lives to demonstrate such resilience of human spirit, we cannot help but be instructed.

At the end of the movie “Star Man” Jeff Bridges’ character remarks that (paraphrase) “You humans are quite something…you are at your best when things are worst.”

The writer admires Arturo for his getting right back up after being trashed by Mayweather and jumping right back in the fray. Whether these two guys rank here or there, they were well enough matched to give us all a fine fight for Saturday night.

Though Gatti called out Carlos Baldomir during the post fight interview, there are several really interesting match-ups at welter which might occur. Zab Judah might be a hoot, and who doesn’t want to see Corey Spinks dance his way into another KO? What with Damgaard at number fifteen for this fight, it might be prudent for Gatti to take one or two top ten contests before trying for a belt from the likes of Margarito.

It is obvious that Gatti is a natural. He loves the sport and his place within it. We are lucky to have him. See you at the fights.