ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Floyd Mayweather walked into the lion's den and took Arturo Gatti's heart.
Last night, before a capacity, pro-Gatti crowd of 12,000 at Boardwalk Hall, Mayweather continued to stake his claim as one of boxing's best pound-for-pound fighters.
Mayweather stopped Gatti when the referee, acting on the advice of Gatti's corner, waved an end to the bout after the sixth round. With the win, Mayweather took Gatti's World Boxing Council 140-pound title.
"I'm stopping it, baby. I'm stopping it," Gatti's trainer, Buddy McGirt, told the New Jersey fighter, who protested only briefly. "No more. No more. Your eyes are closing."
Mayweather, a heavy favorite before the bout, raised his record to 34-0 with 23 knockouts, and his mark in championship fights to 14-0. It was the third WBC title belt for Mayweather.
"I boxed, and I stepped it up," Mayweather, 28, said. "I'm a great champion, he's a great champion. Everything I said about him before the fight was just to hype the fight."
Said Gatti: "Too much speed. Things weren't coming out right. He's fast. He's harder to hit than I thought. I was head-hunting too much. Buddy kept telling me to stop head-hunting, but he was so quick."
Mayweather easily won the first five rounds, firing hard shots behind his jab. Mayweather dropped Gatti (39-7, 30 KOs) late in the first round with a left hook. The knockdown came after Gatti dropped his hands, thinking Mayweather hit him late.
"[Gatti] started out the first round OK, but after the mishap, he got off track," McGirt said. "Gatti was worried about falling behind. When he came back to the corner, he asked if that was a 10-8 round. I told him, 'Don't worry about it, you still have 11 rounds left.'
"Mayweather's very good, but Arturo got away from the game plan after the first round. The game plan was to work the body and keep circling to Floyd's left."
Another Mayweather hook stunned Gatti, 33, early in the second round, when he peppered Gatti with his jab. Mayweather continually shook Gatti with left-right combinations, then danced away.
It was more of the same in the third, when Mayweather, his left hand at his side, dug in with blows to both sides of Gatti's head, often starting the barrage with a lead or overhand right. Gatti missed repeatedly, even during the moments when his rival was on the ropes.
At one point in the fourth, Mayweather landed a variety of right crosses and uppercuts - nearly 20 unanswered punches - with no reply from Gatti. By the sixth round, both of Gatti's eyes were swollen underneath.
"This was one of Floyd's most dazzling performances," said Roger Mayweather, Floyd's uncle and trainer. "I'm not surprised what happened."
A two-time champion, Gatti slipped to 7-1 with four KOs in title bouts. His record in Atlantic City fell to 16-4 with 10 KOs. Also coming to an end was Gatti's record of 6-0 with three KOs at Boardwalk Hall, including a five-bout winning streak.
Gatti received a guaranteed $3.5 million to Mayweather's career-best $3.1 million.
After winning his third fight as a super lightweight, Mayweather can now be marketed as more of a pay-per-view fighter. Promoter Bob Arum hopes to match him against welterweight (147) champs Antonio Margarito or Zab Judah, or 140-pound titlists Miguel Cotto or Ricky Hatton.
"I'd rather fight Floyd [than Gatti]," Hatton said. "He beat the champion, and he looked impressive doing it. I relish the challenge. I have no fears of fighting Floyd. He does a lot of talking, but tonight, he backed it up."
Other considerations for Mayweather are former world champions Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley, who have dropped back to 147 pounds.
On last night's undercard, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (20-0, 15 KOs), the son of the legendary former world champion, stopped Ruban Galvan (21-7-2) in the fourth round of their 140-pound bout.
Vivian Harris (25-2-1) lost his World Boxing Association 140-pound title when Carlos Maussa (18-2) scored a seventh-round knockout.