ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - When World Boxing Council 140-pound champion Arturo Gatti meets Floyd Mayweather tomorrow night at Boardwalk Hall, it will be a battle of fighters with contrasting styles and checkered pasts.
Gatti (39-6, 30 knockouts) and Mayweather (33-0, 22 KOs) will earn career-high paydays for the fight - $3.5 million and $3.1 million, respectively - thanks in large part because it is a pay-per-view event on HBO.
But Mayweather and his camp aren't so appreciative of HBO's 30-minute promotional preview of the fight.
Mayweather, 28, is cast as a cocky fighter and greedy bully, who labels Gatti "a C-plus fighter" and a glorified club fighter.
Gatti, 33, is portrayed as a scrappy hero with working-class, blue-collar appeal. HBO details the early life of Gatti, the son of an Italian electrician who died as a result of an on-the-job accident when Gatti was in his teens.
Both fighters have had problems with the law, but HBO accentuates only Mayweather's run-ins. Details of his long-running domestic disputes and frequent "clubbing" are introduced. His no-contest plea to assault charges stemming from a bar fight in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., is detailed.
"I think in the marketing of this fight, particularly by HBO, they've come with a bias," said Mayweather's promoter, Bob Arum. "Floyd is the bad guy, and Gatti is the good guy. Actually, in my opinion, they're both good guys. And that has to be pointed out. If you're going to point out the indiscretions of Floyd, you have an absolute moral obligation to do the same with the other guy."
Said Mayweather: "I just want to be treated fairly. ... I made mistakes in my past. I'm a good person."
HBO president Ross Greenburg said, "We may have been able to do a better job of balancing the preview promotion of this event and either digging into both guys' lives or abandoning it. At the end of the day, it does sell tickets I guess, but it's not the classiest way to go about promoting a boxing event."
Gatti's arrest record resembles his face after one of his many brutal ring wars: It isn't pretty.
Gatti is wanted in Scottsdale, Ariz., because he broke terms of a sentence on a conviction of driving under the influence, a municipal court clerk there said yesterday. His driver's license is now revoked in New Jersey after three DUI charges, according to his manager, Pat Lynch.
In 1998 in Florida, Gatti was charged with assaulting his girlfriend and punching a 51-year-old man in the head and loosening his hair transplant staples. Neither of those cases was prosecuted. And in 1997 in New Jersey, Gatti was charged with punching a police officer in the stomach. That charge was reduced and later dismissed, according to Lynch.
Gatti has chalked up his legal troubles as youthful indiscretions.
"It's easy to get off track," said Gatti, who is a 5-to-1 underdog while making his third title defense. "It's normal when you're young and you make a few dollars and then you wake up and you realize you're doing the wrong thing. I'm a wild guy. I was having a wild time, going crazy, having a good time."
Gatti said his out-of-the-ring behavior led to three straight losses in 1998 - one by knockout to Angel Manfredy and two via decision to Ivan Robinson.
Whether it was those three defeats, his fifth-round knockout loss to Oscar De La Hoya in 2001, or the strength-sapping trilogy with Micky Ward that ended with Gatti winning their last two meetings in 2002 and 2003 - Gatti has found ways to endure.
Gatti says he's a more disciplined fighter, having gone 5-0 with two knockouts since losing to Ward in May 2002.
"I was hearing at times that I was shot, and that 'This kid doesn't have it no more,' " Gatti said. "People wanted me to retire, but in my heart, I knew I still had it. Look where I am today."
Sun researcher Elizabeth Lukes contributed to this article.
Who: Arturo Gatti (39-6, 30 knockouts) vs. Floyd Mayweather (33-0, 22 KOs) for Gatti's WBC 140-pound title
When: Tomorrow (undercard begins at 9 p.m.)
Where: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.
TV: HBO pay-per-view