Mayweather, Hatton Eye Title Bout
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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – In the end, all of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s promises were kept, and the punishment was dished out in full.
As he tattooed a sluggish Arturo Gatti with doubled-up right hands, left hooks, sneaky uppercuts, and a barrage of body shots, Mayweather even found the time to fire off one last teasing taunt.
It came during a clinch following a dazzling six-punch combination, when Mayweather stared over Gatti’s shoulder and gazed in the direction of Gatti’s corner. Mayweather looked over there just long enough to make eye contact, then stuck out his tongue as if to say: Told you so!
Mayweather’s dismantling of Gatti (39-7 with 30 knockouts) in Atlantic City on Saturday night was conducted with such ease and confidence that it is hard to imagine any fighter in the talent-rich 140-pound division – or in any weight division, for that matter – coming close to outmaneuvering Mayweather’s ninja-like hand speed.
He is simply too quick to be beat. Gatti himself said so, moments after the fight was stopped after the sixth round at the behest of Gatti’s trainer, Buddy McGirt.
“Too much speed,” said Gatti, 33, with his left eye shut and his face swollen. “He was harder to hit than I thought.”
It was a promise the 28-year-old Mayweather made repeatedly during the pre-fight promotion. More importantly, Mayweather followed through on his prediction that he would emerge from the fight as a marketable attraction finally able to entertain offers for the big paydays that have eluded him. He also promised that Gatti, who suffered injuries in several previous ring wars, would entertain retirement.
Unlike Gatti, Mayweather’s path is mapped out. Promoters and television executives are looking to match the undefeated Mayweather with the undefeated Ricky Hatton, who vanquished the former 140-pound king, Kostya Tsyzu in England earlier this month.
In remarks after Saturday’s fight, Mayweather (34-0, 23 KOs) said Hatton (39-0, 29 KOs) would be his opponent of choice, although he has demanded the fight take place in America and not in Hatton’s hometown of Manchester, England, because Mayweather fears the prospect of a biased referee.
Hatton’s relentless and swarming fighting style probably makes him the opponent that has the most of what it takes right now to test Mayweather. Hatton, 26, holds the International Boxing Federation’s portion of the junior welterweight title. He said Saturday that executives from HBO had spoken with him before Mayweather-Gatti about negotiating for a bout with Mayweather to unify the junior welterweight title.
The senior vice president of programming at HBO Sports, Kery Davis, yesterday discounted the idea that HBO executives were already negotiating a Hatton-Mayweather clash before the latter had even beaten the gutsy Gatti, a loyal HBO fighter and longtime draw for the network. But Davis did say that HBO executives had held pre-fight negotiations with members of both Gatti’s camp and Mayweather’s to discuss the possibility that the winner of Saturday’s match might fight Hatton.
“We would never assume,” Davis said, adding that the 140-pound class has the potential to become the most marketable in boxing today, especially with the World Boxing Organization’s titleholder, Miguel Cotto (24-0, with 20 knockouts) looming like a snake in the grass. Headlining a bout in Madison Square Garden earlier this month, Cotto, 24, was virtually flawless in disposing the rugged Olympic gold medalist, Mohamed Abdulaev, whom he stopped in nine rounds.
“What you have right now are three young stars – Mayweather, Hatton, and Cotto – that have all won big in the last month,” Davis said. “The key here will be if they are willing to fight each other. If so, there’s a real future here.”
It is unlikely that future contains Arturo Gatti. He has struggled for years to make the 140-pound limit, dieting on baby food, egg whites, and carrot juice in training camp, and sweating out pounds of water weight before weigh-ins. But Gatti shrugged off any notions of retirement. He said he would move up to the welterweight limit of 147 pounds and promised to avenge such one-sided defeat and box again.
In the end, though, Gatti is an aging fighter with many brutal wars in his past, often-fractured hands and swelling cheekbones, millions in the bank, and a penchant for golf. In that light, his promise to continue fighting might not be a promise worth keeping.