From Blood and Guts to the Real Thing? Baldomir is Gatti’s Only Option

29.01.06 – By Chris Ireland: Saturday night in Atlantic City, Arturo Gatti once again confirmed he was boxing’s “Ultimate Blood and Guts Warrior,” dispatching previously unbeaten and world ranked Thomas Damgaard in 11 entertaining, classic Gatti rounds. Despite injuring his right hand yet again and suffering a rib injury in training camp, Gatti was able to out-box and at times out-slug the Dane for most of the fight. This marked the beginning of Gatti’s second journey up to welterweight, the first of which ended in his one-sided loss to Oscar De La Hoya.

The loss to De La Hoya in 2001 effectively ended Gatti’s career as a major threat in the eyes of many (until he ultimately resurrected his career against Micky Ward). His latest move to welterweight, however, has been much more successful. With a convincing win over the highly ranked (undeservingly so) Damgaard, Gatti put himself into position to fight the newly crowned, undisputed welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir.

Baldomir is the ideal fight for Gatti at 147. Against Damgaard, Gatti showed terrific accuracy, partly because the Dane squared-up to “Thunder.” Gatti was allowed to go to the body and set up power shots to the head because of this, landing at a high percentage because of the stationary target Damgaard presented. The Argentinean Baldomir likes to square-up as well, meaning Gatti would have the same opportunities for success against the champion as he did with Damgaard. Other top welterweights whom Gatti can make money against like Cory Spinks, Shane Mosley (If he choses to move back down to 147 after his fight with Vargas), and Zab Judah don’t present the easy targets Damgaard and Baldomir do. Another top welterweight, Antonio Margarito, may not be as defensively crafty as the previously mentioned fighters, but still shouldn’t be an option for Gatti. Margarito isn’t a moneymaker and presents an enormous amount of risk, the same of which can be said for Luis Collazo.

Another reason Gatti should stay focused on a title shot with Baldomir is the champion’s lack of speed. Baldomir was obviously fast enough to hit Zab Judah, but in no way did he showcase the kind of fast hands possessed by his opponent that night, or any of the other big money stars at 147. Gatti took the worst beatings of his career against fighters known for their speed – Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. Even the slow-as-erosion Damgaard popped Gatti enough to keep the fight interesting, which means he probably shouldn’t be messing with majority of the faster, more skilled welterweights.

As is the case with many of his fights, Gatti injured his right hand against Damgaard on Saturday. The injury hasn’t stopped Gatti from defeating Damgaard, Micky Ward, or Gianluca Branco, but with the exception of Damgaard, those fighters were smaller, weaker, junior welterweights. Gatti wouldn’t be able to keep the stronger welterweights – Kostya Tszyu (If he chooses to comeback at 147), and Antonio Margarito, or the faster ones – Zab Judah, Cory Spinks, and possibly Shane Mosley – off of him with one hand. An injury to his right hand against Baldomir may prove to be fatal as well since the Argentinean is the stronger man, but Gatti’s chances of survival are far better.

Similar to the great Italian fighters he’s often compared with, Gatti is a fighter that cuts easily. This weakness could present a problem at welterweight where the fighters hit harder than Gatti’s previous weight classes, particularly if he breaks his right hand again and his defense is compromised. The power hitters of 147 would batter Gatti’s face and force the referee to stop the fight. Carlos Baldomir, however, doesn’t present that sort of problem. In 57 fights, he has 12 knockouts. Baldomir probably wouldn’t be able to land anything that would turn Gatti’s face into a crimson mask or cause
significant swelling, meaning Gatti would be free to wing the power shots he did against Damgaard, without fear of leaving himself open.

While the majority of the top welterweights possess the kind of speed, power, or strength to end the latest resurrection of Arturo Gatti’s career, Carlos Baldomir possess everything to elevate Gatti to a new level. The Cinderella champion is a light-hitting, relatively slow pressure fighter that presents the kind of style that Gatti has always been able to handle. The fight will generate money for both men, since Gatti becoming the undisputed welterweight champion is an attractive thought to the countless fans “Thunder” has earned over the years. Perhaps most importantly, a win for Gatti would elevate
him to a level he has never been at – the undisputed champion of the world. Had Baldomir not pulled off the monumental upset of Zab Judah January 7, Arturo Gatti’s move up to welterweight probably would have resulted in the same kind of beating he took against Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. Now Gatti has one final shot at what he’s spent his whole career bleeding and breaking bones for.

In the eyes of many, Arturo Gatti has always been a champion. If he gets a crack at Carlos Baldomir, however, he has a legitamate chance to go from “Blood and Guts” to the real thing.