ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - A photo in the lobby of Bally's Hotel and Casino shows Angel Manfredy blocking Arturo Gatti's wide left hook. Manfredy's eighth-round knockout was the second of six losses suffered by Gatti, this city's boxing hero.
Talented defensive specialist Floyd Mayweather (33-0, 22 knockouts) figures to do similar damage when the hard-punching Gatti (39-6, 30 KOs) defends his World Boxing Council 140-pound title tonight at Boardwalk Hall.
Their clash is billed as "Thunder and Lightning" because of Gatti's momentum-changing power and Mayweather's speed, skill and grace.
Each is a two-time world champion. Mayweather is 13-0 with seven KOs in title fights; Gatti, 7-0 with four KOs. But Gatti's the attraction in Atlantic City, where he is 16-3 with 10 KOs, including 6-0 with three KOs at Boardwalk Hall - a 12,000-seat venue that sold out in a matter of hours.
Gatti is considered one of the most entertaining television fighters ever, and four of his often bloody battles have earned Fight of the Year honors. At Boardwalk Hall, his five-bout winning streak includes taking the crown from Gianluca Branco and defending it with KOs of Leonard Dorin and James Leija.
But Gatti is a nearly 5-1 underdog against Mayweather, a talented 28-year-old nicknamed "Pretty Boy" who is perhaps the sport's best, pound for pound. Because of the acrimony between them, the fighters have been kept separated throughout the promotions and news conferences.
"I'm not just blood and guts. This is my time to prove my ability to the world," said Gatti, 33, who will earn a career-high $3.5 million for a bout that will be televised via pay-per-view on HBO. "I'll finally be respected as one of the best [pound for pound] after I win."
Gatti's status as a folk hero began at New York's Madison Square Garden in March 1996 with a come-from-behind, sixth-round knockout of Wilson Rodriguez. Gatti survived an early knockdown and trailed by three points on two judges' cards, but he ended up breaking several of Rodriguez's ribs and overcame blood flow into eyes that were mere slits.
"I've gotten up from being down, fought with a broken hand, gotten cuts and still come out a winner," said Gatti, who is from Hoboken, N.J. "I can take anybody's punch. Floyd's never had to dig deep. I know I have a big heart; we'll see if Mayweather does."
Unlike Gatti, Mayweather hasn't had to bleed to succeed.
"It's not cool to say, 'Yeah, I took punishment,' just to be popular. It's not cool to say, 'I took shots to the head,' or, 'Yeah, I was bleeding,' " said Mayweather, who will earn a career-best $3.1 million. "What's cool is I can say I have no cuts, no bruises. The less you get hit, the longer you last in boxing."
A former six-time Canadian Golden Gloves champ, Gatti turned pro in 1991. Four years later, he won the IBF super featherweight (130 pounds) title by unanimous decision over Tracy Harris Patterson.
Having increased his weight-training regimen and spending three months dropping from his natural weight of 170, Gatti expects to weigh as much as 155 when he enters the ring.
But Mayweather, in only his third fight since rising from the lightweight (135 pounds) class, said weight won't matter. He called Gatti "a club fighter. I'll put him into retirement."
"All of his shots are wide. He's flat-footed. HBO puts him in with C-minus fighters," said Mayweather, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native who trains in Las Vegas.
An Olympic bronze medalist in 1996, Mayweather turned professional that same year and went on to score knockouts in 13 of his first 15 fights. In his 18th, he won the WBC's super featherweight title with an eighth-round knockout of Genaro Hernandez, who was 38-1-1 with 17 knockouts.
Mayweather next scored a second-round KO of Manfredy, who had just beaten Gatti.
In April 2002, Mayweather rose to 135 pounds to win the WBC title by unanimous decision over Jose Luis Castillo. Another decision over Castillo was among Mayweather's three defenses of that crown.
At a glance
Who: Arturo Gatti (39-6, 30 knockouts) vs. Floyd Mayweather (33-0, 22 KOs) for Gatti's WBC 140-pound title
When: Tonight (undercard begins at 9)
Where: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.
TV: HBO pay-per-view