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A Game of “What if…?”: Arturo Gatti vs. Diego Corrales

By Jason Gonzalez

As a connoisseur of the “Sweet Science,” I can’t help but ponder the outcome of certain match-ups that, for whatever reason, never materialized. That said, let’s play a game of “What if...?”

What if Arturo Gatti and Diego Corrales locked horns in the squared circle? The idea alone sends chills down my spine. Words and phrases like “bloodbath” and “Fight of the Year” immediately come to mind, based on the tenacity and moxie both warriors exhibited when in combat. I started my breakdown of this fight since both men’s lives were cut short as a result of horrific tragedies. But before I share with you my analysis of how this scrap would have played out, I must first weigh in on all of the intangibles.
At what weight would this fight take place? Both Gatti and Corrales were full-fledged welterweights the last time they both donned a pair of gloves. Corrales fought Joshua Clottey, while Gatti squared off against Alfonso Gomez. Besides both fighters being shells of their old selves, it was apparent that 147 pounds was too big for both fighters. Neither guy was big enough nor fast enough to compete in the welterweight division. The tall and lanky Corrales physically peaked at 135 pounds; his fight with Acelino Freitas and classic duel with Jose Luis Castillo are testament to this fact. Gatti, on the other hand, was at his best when fighting at the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds; his fights with Gianluca Branco, Leonard Dorin, and Jesse James Leija can confirm this claim. So in order for both fighters to compete on an even playing field, the scrap between Gatti and Corrales should be fought at a catchweight of 138 pounds. Due to Corrales being the smaller man, he would go up three pounds, while Gatti would drop two pounds due to being naturally bigger and stronger.
The second component that factors into this equation is twofold: skill level and athleticism. Gatti had limited boxing skills. In this department, at his best, Gatti was anywhere from a C-plus to a B-minus fighter. Most of the time, “Thunder” was fighting life and death with guys he should have beaten easily. Cases in point: Wilson Rodriguez and, to some degree, Micky Ward. Meanwhile, Corrales at his best was an A-minus to an A-class fighter. Corrales could box. Able to put his punches together with fluid precision, he hooked off the jab and for a tall fighter with long arms, Corrales could fight very well in close quarters and on the inside (Revisit the first fight with Castillo and see for yourself). If this were a contest of ability, hands down, Corrales would outclass Gatti. However, knowing the type of fighter Corrales was, it would be too tempting for “Chico” to not goad Gatti into a shootout. Knowing the type of fighter Gatti was, he would be more than happy to oblige. I am sure that most boxing pundits would echo the same sentiment.
So far, we have established a weight for the fight to take place and we expect a barnburner. Who has the advantage? Who is at a disadvantage? At this stage of the game, it may be too early to tell but usually, the winner of a slugfest is the more durable fighter with the sturdier chin. The third and fourth questions I propose are, of the two fighters, who would be more durable and who had the better chin? Let’s take endurance and psychological make-up into account as well. Nine times out of ten, he who shows mental grit in a war of attrition will stand alone in victory. There is always the case of simply being too brave but that’s what makes this bout so compelling. Both guys exuded the never-say-die/kill-or-be-killed attitude when in the ring. There were times in recent memory where I could say that Gatti was not in fighting shape. Angel Manfredy exposed it; it was crystal clear in Gatti’s first outing with Ivan Robinson and Gabriel Ruelas tried to take Gatti into deep waters because of it. However, Gatti’s determination to win compensated for any deficiencies he may have shown in either the work ethic or stamina department. Gatti’s will to win would catapult him to surpass any obstacle he would encounter along the way. The ninth round in his first bout with Ward is evidence that in order to beat him, you virtually had to kill him. Ward connected with a vicious, crippling left hook to the body that floored Gatti, leaving him in agonizing pain but some way, somehow, Gatti mustered up enough courage to get up and survive the rest of the round. In the tenth round, Gatti had fought as if the penultimate round never happened. As for Corrales, with the exception of his third fight with Joel Casamayor (Corrales failed to make the lightweight limit of 135 pounds), I can say that he always appeared in shape to throw down. Corrales’ name was synonymous with that of a soldier in infantry and just like Gatti, Corrales’ actions in the ring indicated he had no problem going out on his shield. Quitting or stopping a fight as a result of taking a lot of punishment did not exist in his realm. So here, we have two men with such pride and valor that were willing to lay everything on the line for the sake of the sport and the fans, a key element that isn’t seen as much nowadays. We did manage to see it when Victor Ortiz fought Andre Berto but where was it when Devon Alexander fought Timothy Bradley? Where was it when Zab Judah fought Amir Khan? It kind of makes one wonder what Gatti and Corrales would say about Alexander or Judah, had they seen their dismal performances.
So it seems this epic battle between Gatti and Corrales has now come down to who has the better chin. Whether you agree with me on what I think the outcome of the fight would be is one thing but I am sure that we are on the same page when I say that this battle will end in a knockout. The question now becomes, which fighter can take a punch better? Which fighter would better sustain the punishment that would be dealt out? Gatti lost a total of nine fights in his career. Of those nine losses, he was stopped five times against Manfredy, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Carlos Baldomir, and Gomez (four technical knockouts and one fight stopped in between rounds). The point that I am trying to convey is that Gatti was never counted out. In fact, very rarely would he go down and when he did he got up each time. However, Corrales didn’t. In his career, Corrales lost a total of five fights, three of which were by stoppage. Corrales found himself on the receiving end of a devastating left hook by Castillo and counted out in four rounds in their rematch (not to mention suffering two knockdowns in their first fight). Mayweather dropped him five times before forcing Corrales’ corner to stop the fight. In the first two fights against Casamayor, Corrales found himself on the canvas a total of three times. Let’s do the math; five times against Mayweather and three times against Casamayor is eight. Three more times against Castillo is 11 and twice more against Clottey is 13. You read correctly; Corrales was down a total of 13 times in his career.
Corrales’ “suspect chin” was a major deficit in his repertoire, eventually returning to haunt him in a contest against Gatti. Neither guy knew how to take a step back nor did they know what defense was. This dance would come down to a battle of chins.
So we have established a weight for the fight. In terms of skill and athleticism, we established which fighter was better. Regarding courage, we have established that it’s just about even and we know who had the better chin. There is only one element missing to complete this proposed battle: time. We need to assess at what point the two were in their primes in order to make the best possible fight. This was a bit difficult because both fighters suffered from their respective demons. Gatti, for most of his career, had shown a proclivity for partying and enjoying the perks that come with the nightlife. For Corrales, I would say his prime was in 2004. He was 27 years old, having just completed a 14-month stint in prison the year before. The time off did his body well but anything post 2005 cancels out such great condition. Corrales was never the same fighter after the first contest with Castillo. 2003-04 were great years for Gatti, who was 32 at the time. In ’03, Gatti had wrapped up the trilogy with Ward and proved that he still had a lot of fight left in him. The following year, Gatti would impressively win three in a row at junior welterweight, winning a vacant title in the process. All things considered, the Corrales and Gatti of 2004 would have made for great television.
So if Gatti and Corrales would have squared off in 2004 at a catchweight of 138 pounds, in consideration of which fighter had more heart, the better skills, and the better chin, who would win? I feel that all of the advantages point to Gatti via an eighth round knockout in a stellar fight. More than likely, the fight would have opened up with Corrales boxing, winning the early rounds. As the fight went on, the later rounds would have favored Gatti because Corrales would have deviated from the game plan to box due to his need to spice things up a bit. By the middle rounds, Gatti’s face would be swollen and cut up as would Corrales’. The pace may be bit much for Corrales, who is carrying the extra three pounds and begins to fade. As a result of the fatigue and the swelling in his face, Corrales gets hit with a left hook that he does not see, dropping him for the count. Gatti-Corrales would have been the 2004 “Fight of the Year,” replacing the third fight between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales.
What do you think? Do you agree? We will never know which is why, unfortunately, we’re relegated to a game of “What if...?”


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