ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - By day, 140-pound boxer Floyd Mayweather trained like a man possessed - a regimen that included running five-minute miles and sparring 17 rounds a day against men 20 pounds heavier. By night, Mayweather prayed that his rival, Arturo Gatti, would survive the punishment he had promised to inflict during the buildup for their fight.
On Saturday night, before a pro-Gatti, sellout crowd of 12,675 at Boardwalk Hall, Mayweather used what he calls his "God-given talent" to deliver the win.
In a lopsided victory that earned his third World Boxing Council title in as many weight classes, Mayweather (34-0, 23 knockouts) out-punched Gatti (39-7, 30 KOs) by more than 4-to-1 (168-to-41), turning the frenzied chants of "Gatti, Gatti" into abrupt silence, and his rival's face into a swollen mess.
When referee Earl Morton waved an end to the bout after the sixth round, at the suggestion of Gatti's trainer, Buddy McGirt, Mayweather, 28, dropped to his knees, cried and looked skyward to "thank the big man upstairs."
Mayweather led 60-52 on the cards of judges David Moretti (Las Vegas) and Louis Rivera (New York) and 60-53 on that of John Stewart (Atlantic City), meaning he won every round.
"It's a blessing to be in this position, and I'm blessed to have these talents," Mayweather, nicknamed "Pretty Boy," began his post-fight speech. Unlike Gatti's, Mayweather's face was unmarked.
"I knew the crowd would be going crazy, but I said 'as soon as I put him down, they'll sit and be quiet,'" said Maywea- ther, who floored his man in the first round and who later dismissed as "hype" his pre-fight belittling of Gatti's skills.
The fight, matching Gatti's power against Mayweather's speed and slick boxing, was billed "Thunder and Lightning."
"Arturo Gatti gave his all, and I respect him as a fighter," Mayweather said. "I don't hate him. That was just talk. Actually, he's a good guy."
But that didn't stop Mayweather from dominating the fight. His body shots made Gatti double over. His right crosses, left hooks and uppercuts bounced Gatti like a bobblehead doll.
Gatti, his eyes almost swollen shut by the end of the sixth round, staggered to his corner, slumped on his stool and was told by McGirt, "I'm stopping it, baby."
Afterward, promoter Bob Arum introduced Mayweather as "the best fighter in the world."
"In my time, I've promoted Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, but some old-timers at ringside told me that tonight's performance reminded them of Sugar Ray Robinson - and there's no higher praise than [that]," Arum said.
"Nobody is saying that Arturo Gatti is a greatly accomplished fighter, but he tries like a son of a gun. But many guys, on this kind of stage for the first time, they find a way to screw up. Look at Leonard when he let the emotions get to him when he lost the first fight to Duran. This was Floyd's graduation."
Arum hopes to next match Mayweather against World Boxing Organization welterweight (147-pound) champion Antonio Margarito (32-4, 23 KOs), former two-time world champ Shane Mosley (40-4, 35 KOs) or Zab Judah (34-2, 25 KOs), owner of the WBC, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation welterweight titles.
"There's a lot of big fights out there for me," Mayweather said. "I've never ducked or dodged anyone."