By Mike Indri
Retired Boxers Foundation
Atlantic City, NJ - As Arturo Gatti was waiting for the opening bell he turned and called upon his beloved manager Pat Lynch, who sprang up the three wooden steps onto the ring apron and got his ceremonial pre-fight hug and kiss from his proud fighter. The first one came on June 10, 1991 in Gatti's pro debut, an exhilarating third round technical knockout against Jose Gonzalez. Tonight may have been the last one.
In front of 12,763 loving and adoring fans that jammed their way into the sold-out Boardwalk Hall, and challenging for his third world title, Gatti was unable to withstand the surprisingly potent offensive attack of newly crowned World Boxing Council welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir and took a punishing beating before referee Wayne Hedgepeth waved off the bout, following Gatti's second trip to the canvas, at 2:50 of the ninth round.
Much has been said about the unbelievable resurrection of the legendary New Jersey boxer. Considered "finished" on several occasions during his remarkable career, Gatti never wavered and always found a way to rebound from obstacles and resiliently forged, and fought, his path to greatness.
The same now must be said about Carlos Baldomir. A 16-1 underdog this past January in his fight against Zab Judah (then the undisputed welterweight world champion) Baldomir shocked the boxing world by out-fighting the talented, yet lackadaisical, Brooklyn born fighter en route to an impressive unanimous decision victory, in Judah's backyard, at Madison Square Garden!
Only in boxing can you beat the undisputed world champion and NOT be officially recognized as the undisputed world champion, but for his efforts Baldomir picked up the WBC title and put himself in a position which every fighter dreams about…a million dollar payday!
While entertaining many offers, the new world champion's promoter, Sycuan Ringside Promotions, opted for the fight that would yield their truly deserving fighter the most money. The Gatti fight would be for a purse of close to 1.4 million dollars. Considering that he was paid a career high ($100,000 dollars) for the Judah fight, this was the opportunity of a lifetime for Carlos Baldomir…and he definitely seized the moment.
From the fight's onset Gatti realized quickly that Baldomir was much more formidable and stronger than he had anticipated. While boxing well in round one, Gatti was finding the tough Argentinean with his jab, and a late accidental head butt actually reddened Baldomir's forehead and appeared to have him bothered. While continually moving and pressing forward, Baldomir never appeared to be affected by the Gatti power shots which found their mark, while having Gatti staggered and hurt near the end of round three.
Baldomir, a true boxing "feel good" success story who has had to earn everything he has ever gotten out of his grueling and dangerous occupation (including his title belt), came to Atlantic City not to lose, and not as an opponent; and it showed in his determined and dedicated effort. Gatti's legacy is cemented with his heart and blood & guts, while Baldomir will fight on to further enhance his own.
It looked like the Gatti of old, as round four had the Hoboken, NJ resident bleeding under his right eye and beginning to swell from the multitude of Baldomir punches that were landing cleanly. Round five was a hellacious three minutes of brutal action, unreal action which will get many votes for "round of the year" and had the smiling Baldomir exerting his will and gaining the advantage. The longer the fight wore on, the more evident it became that New Jersey's favorite son was in trouble and hurting, while Baldomir was using his obvious edge of strength and power to his advantage and winning the rounds.
Gatti would pay a dear price for never slowing Baldomir down with any body shots and by midway through this exciting brawl had reverted solely to headhunting and looking for one punch which would deliver that miraculous knockout which each and every fan had seen so many times before from their boxing hero.
Tonight was not that night, and while it was Gatti's twentieth appearance on HBO (only Shane Mosley, Roy Jones Jr. and Lennox Lewis have appeared more on the network) Baldomir was stealing the show!
As Gatti was hit and sprawled into the ropes, somehow not seen as a knockdown in the eighth round, it only delayed the inevitable. Baldomir began pounding Gatti early in round nine and had his beaten foe bouncing off the ropes before driving a debilitating left hook, which sent Gatti to the canvas on his knees.
Valiantly getting up and beating the count, the now defenseless warrior absorbed several more of the forty total power shots which Baldomir connected with in that fateful final round and succumbed to a straight left hand, which dropped Gatti to the deck for a second time. With Gatti flat on his back, referee Hedgepeth wisely saw no need to count and waved off the bout.
The aftershock was felt through the entire arena, which hadn't been this solemn or quiet in close to four years, since Arturo Gatti began his rock star-like eight fight "sell-out tour" with Gatti-Ward ll in November 2002.
Afterwards the classy Gatti gave all the credit to Baldomir. "He was very strong," stated Gatti. "I tried to box him, I was trying to use my experience to draw him in, but he had my style down."
With the looming question about retirement, Gatti lamented, "I don't know what I'm going to do, but after tonight's performance it's something I must consider."
Meanwhile, Baldomir’s record improves to 43-9-6, as has now put himself in line for even bigger and better things, including a possible November meeting with "Flamboyant" Floyd Mayweather.