ATLANTIC CITY THRILLS: GATTI’S DEMISE & CINTRON’S RISE
On the most explosive night of boxing in years, four welterweights were out to impress in Atlantic City in two seemingly evenly matched bouts. Instead, the fans packing Boardwalk Hall witnessed two extremely one-sided affairs that still provided the necessary drama guaranteed to have the boxing world talking for some time. On the undercard, Kermit Cintron obliterated deadly puncher Walter Matthysse in a little over three minutes while in the main event Arturo Gatti was surprisingly punished for seven horrific rounds before wilting under the pressure of Alfonso Gomez and announcing his retirement shortly thereafter.
GOMEZ BEATS GATTI INTO RETIREMENT
Going into his fight with Alfonso Gomez, Arturo Gatti said if he couldn’t defeat the former â€œContenderâ€ competitor, then he didn’t belong in the ring anymore. It took seven rounds to get the job done, but Gomez eventually convinced Gatti that the time for retirement is now.
Hiring Micky Ward as his trainer for motivational purposes, Gatti claimed to be a rejuvenated fighter, but you can only rebuild an all action fighter like Gatti so many times in a sport this physically taxing. The knockout loss to Carlos Baldomir a year ago should have been the end of the road, but Gatti understandably wanted to go out with at least one more win. Somewhat surprisingly, he couldn’t get that win over a very normal opponent and threw in the towel on his career before leaving Boardwalk Hall, where he will always remain a legend, for the last time.
Gatti has always been adored by boxing fans for his inability to avoid a good slugfest, but against Gomez, he simply couldn’t fight back. Gomez, a fundamental fighter who doesn’t really bring anything exceptional to the table, landed his right hand on Gatti at will throughout the fight much like Floyd Mayweather Jr. two years ago and Baldomir last summer. Taking a page right out of Mayweather’s book, Gomez even managed to land a round of consecutive straight right hands on Gatti in shotgun like fashion. Gomez is no Mayweather, but Gatti made him look almost as good at times. Final tallies saw Gomez landing nearly fifty percent of his punches.
Of course, Gatti has never been hard to find, and this time was no different as he stood in front of Gomez all the while looking like he wanted to box. For whatever reason, Gatti couldn’t pull the trigger and land anything big enough to dishearten Gomez, who was growing stronger and more confident with each round he won. Gatti also failed to defend himself properly and absorbed a four-punch combination from Gomez midway through round 4. Trying to put on a show for his loyal fans, Gatti smiled and raised his glove before shuffling his feet in round 6, desperate antics from a man out of ideas. Gomez remained focused and ended the show the next round.
After ripping into Gatti with some hard right hands, Gomez opened up on him against the ropes with a measured attack of well placed shots. Gatti tried to fight back, but Gomez caught him with a monster right hand across the jaw. Out on his feet, Gatti slid down the ropes before collapsing onto his hands and knees, face down on the canvas. As Gatti finally began stirring, Commissioner Larry Hazzard entered the ring to personally stop the fight even though it looked like Gatti wasn’t going to beat the count. In a sad touch of irony, Gatti, who had sent Ward into retirement four years ago after their epic trilogy, was now ending his career in the ring alongside his former opponent and now lifelong friend once again.
Gatti appeared to have been knocked silly as he suddenly opened his eyes and became aware of his surroundings, responding by shaking his head in agony and shouting at anyone that tried to help him. With blood pouring from a sliced open lip, Gatti was livid, a warrior to the end refusing to stare into the sun that was quickly going down on him. Try as he might, he couldn’t stop the sun nor could he make a case for continuing his career.
He wasn’t just stopped as has often been the case in his career. This time, after losing every round, Gatti was knocked out. That it came at the hands of Gomez is reason enough to convince Gatti to retire, which he ultimately did in the dressing room later in a much better mood. Gatti had some final words for his hands and was all smiles before briefly breaking into tears. At 35 years of age and 16 years a competitor, the end has finally come for the human highlight reel that is Gatti. It’s been a terrific ride that will be treasured by boxing fans for years to come.
CINTRON MASSACRES MATTHYSSE
In a bout for the IBF Championship that had knockout written all over it, Kermit Cintron was matched up with Argentinean puncher Walter Matthysse. With 50 knockout wins and only two losses, both knockouts which came at the hands of the men fighting in the main event, Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams, between the big hitters, their opening bout guaranteed excitement and repercussions that would be felt throughout the welterweight division. The stakes were high as the winner would remain a major player in boxing’s most impressive weight class and in a position to take the spot of whoever fell in the main event.
Cintron looked every bit the â€œKillerâ€ he is made out to be as he wiped Matthysse out of Atlantic City in a little more than a round. Both men had been out of action since October and appeared anxious to get back to business as they came out trading leather from the very start, but Cintron, fighting uncharacteristically calmly with controlled aggression, was the more effective fighter and landed the first big shot with a straight right hand through the gloves that had Matthysse snorting through his nostrils, confirming Cintron’s power with his reaction.
Matthysse got his share of punches in, but Cintron didn’t allow himself to be rattled and fired back with four unanswered straight right hands that buckled Matthysse’s knees and had him covering up. A big uppercut and another straight right sent Matthysse toppling into the ropes, where he went down on a glove and a knee. Matthysse made it to the bell, but he was in bad shape and barely responsive in his corner as his trainers desperately tried to revive him.
Fighting like a one-man wrecking crew, Cintron sent Matthysse to the canvas on his hands and knees seconds into round 2 with a big right hand over the top. Matthysse was wobbly as he got to his feet and shouldn’t have been allowed to continue, but Referee Earl Morton gave him the benefit of the doubt. It would prove to be a bad call as Matthysse walked into an uppercut and another hellacious right hand that put him down flat on his back for good. Matthysse was out on his feet from the uppercut; the right hand just put him down quicker. Morton immediately waved it off this time as Matthysse had been knocked loopy and remained prone on the mat long after the stoppage. So much for Nonito Donaire taking knockout of the year with his flooring of Vic Darchinyan last week. Cintron is now the frontrunner for that particular accolade.
For Cintron, his most impressive win couldn’t have come at a better time as he did what he had to in order to set himself apart from the other welterweights on this night. Despite Williams ending Margarito’s reign of terror in the main event and Gatti announcing his retirement following his destruction at the hands of Gomez, it was Cintron who piqued fans’ interest with his emphatic knockout. Trainer Emanuel Steward continues to develop Cintron into a fighting machine and legitimate threat to the welterweight crown. The IBF title he holds should help him get the big fights he needs, but if it doesn’t, Cintron would be wise to avoid Margarito’s mistake of holding onto a meaningless belt rather than fighting the opponents that will raise his stock. Matthysse was a mandatory but fortunately still provided some thrills as long as he hung in there. Other mandatories will give Cintron more fantastic knockouts but not an impressive resume. Shane Mosley, who Cintron refused to fight early in the year, would be a terrific voluntary defense, but in a division this good, almost any upper tier opponent should suffice.