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Is Gatti “Broadway Joe”?

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By Steve Kim


There has been a lot of debate and conjecture this week about whether Arturo “Thunder” Gatti deserves induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Since I’m not a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, I don’t have a vote, so I really don’t have a say or stake in this whole argument. And I don’t want to be known as a waffler or a fence-sitter but I really think it’s a 50-50 proposition either way. There is a strong case for and against Gatti, who passed away under mysterious circumstances in 2009.
 
Yes, we all know the argument that says that the Hall-of-Fame is for the very best and elite of a given field. For all the thrills and spills he gave boxing, Gatti was never considered a truly elite fighter and was decisively beaten by the best of his era (like Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De la Hoya) and, more damning, bested by the likes of Ivan Robinson and Angel Manfredy during his physical prime. And no, it doesn’t help his cause that he ended his career getting stopped by Carlos Baldomir and Alfonso Gomez in back-to-back fights.

Even his two major world titles (won at junior lightweight and junior welterweight) are offset by the fact that he won his title – the vacant WBC variety - at 140 in a bout against Gianluca Branco. Let’s be honest; for as gritty as Gatti was, he was also well-maneuvered by his management (Pat Lynch) and his promoter (Main Events). In the era of the multiple sanctioning bodies, a guy like him could cherry-pick his way to several championships.
 
So yeah, in terms of the tangibles, Gatti falls short of getting his fist encased in concrete in Canastota.
 
But unlike a sport like baseball where 300 wins as a pitcher or 3,000 hits as a batter automatically get you into Cooperstown, boxing doesn’t have such set milestones in which to draw upon. This Hall of Fame is just as much about the intangibles that a fighter brought to the table and the contributions he made to the sport. And it could be argued that Gatti was as important as any fighter for a full decade (from 1996 when he help make “Boxing After Dark” must-see-TV by coming off the deck to stop Wilson Rodriguez to 2005, when he was stopped by Mayweather) to the sport and industry.
 
There were his many wars (with Rodriguez, Calvin Grove, Robinson, Manfredy and Gabe Ruelas) and then, of course, his thrill-logy with Micky Ward, one of the most historic and memorable three-fight series in boxing history. Gatti was involved in the “Fight of the Year” an astounding four times - and lived to tell about them. His fights are timeless. How many boxers can say that?
 
Every time Gatti fought, there was a chance you would see something special (whether he won or lost). 
 
He left a piece of himself in that ring again and again.
 
Gatti carried the boxing business on the Eastern seaboard
 
This man created boxing fans.
 
Is there any denying his importance to the sport?
 
And shouldn’t all of this mean something?
 
No, he wasn’t as “skilled” as, say, Chad Dawson but ask yourself this: Who would you rather spend your hard-earned money to see?  Will you ever remember any of Dawson’s fights when it’s all said and done? Yeah, so Gatti was never on any pound-for-pound lists. So what? “Thunder” created more memories, stirred more passions and helped keep boxing relevant more than most of those boxers on those fantasy rankings ever did. Gimme a guy with his record (which ended up at 40-9 with 31 knockouts) who was consistently in entertaining bouts over a guy who goes 50-0, never takes any real chances in the ring and plays it safe. Sorry, but I watch boxing to be entertained, not live vicariously through those who participate and act like I had anything to do with their successes (that’s what my Lakers and Miami Hurricanes are for).
 
You could argue that a guy like Glen Johnson - a personal favorite of mine - and certainly a boxer like Winky Wright had stronger cases and résumés for the Hall of Fame. But it’s not even a question who made the bigger impact on it.
 
Perhaps Gatti is a lot like Joe Willie Namath, a.k.a. “Broadway Joe,” who gained election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after his days in the NFL were over. But have you ever looked at his overall numbers? He actually threw more interceptions than touchdown passes (220 to 173); his career completion percentage was a pedestrian 50.1 percent. In 132 career starts, Namath’s record was 64-64-4. He played in all of three playoff contests during his career (with a record of 2-1) and during the latter part of his career, he was on the sidelines watching the Jets play as much as he was out there with his white shoes, beset by creaky knees. It says here Namath wasn’t nearly the quarterback Archie Manning was. 
 
But why does he have a mustard jacket hanging somewhere in his closet?
 
It’s simple, because of the impact he had on the game of professional football and his role in shaping it.
 
Coming out of the University of Alabama where he played for the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, Namath signed with the upstart AFL, giving the league much-needed credibility. And who can ever forget his famous “guarantee” that the Jets would upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III? And when they actually pulled it off, it changed the game of football (which is now America’s sporting obsession) and it helped lead to the AFL-NFL merger. For Namath, Super Bowl III in Miami was his version of Gatti-Ward.
 
He was a trailblazer - on and off the field (and I don’t mean his TV show with Dick Schaap, if you - *ahem* - catch my drift).
 
Namath’s impact went far beyond the numbers you see on his bubble gum card or any quarterback rating. No, he wasn’t as prolific as say, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw or Roger Staubach, the contemporaries of his era but can you deny his importance or what he meant to the game while he was playing? Yeah, like Gatti, there are many detractors of Namath’s inclusion into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But again, sometimes the intangibles trump the tangibles.
 
Let’s make it clear; there is a strong case for both sides of the Gatti argument. Maybe neither side is wrong here. Personally, it wouldn’t bother me that much either way. But would the International Boxing Hall of Fame really be lessened or watered down by his inclusion?
 
(And please, don’t bring up the fact Barry McGuigan made it. Leave Barry alone; he seems like a fine gentleman and he brought peace to his homeland during his time as a champion. So let’s not even go there. This stuff isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things. Let Mr. McGuigan enjoy this, for Pete’s sake.)
 
Yeah, Sylvester Stallone made it. OK, that’s fair game; I suppose.
 
But perhaps @Drhilljr said it best as this reporter broached the subject on Twitter: “Steve, it is also called the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Ability, or the Hall of Stats....Arturo was a must see fighter!”
 
TBA
 
There seems to be a bit of a problem in finding a replacement for Mikey Garcia, who was scheduled to face WBO featherweight titlist Orlando Salido on November 10th before “Siri” injured his right hand on a car door. Guys like Daulis Prescott turned down the opportunity to face Garcia on HBO and others like Orlando Cruz (who’s made a few headlines recently) have been rejected by the network.
 
There seems to be a bit of a battle between who Top Rank would like to pinch-hit against the talented Garcia and who the network would accept.
 
But didn’t HBO accept the likes of Gary Sykes, listed as a 30-1 underdog by British bookmakers, for Adrien Broner? And if you look at Broner’s roster of opponents on the network, is Cruz any better or worse than the likes of Martin Rodriguez or Jason Litzau (and I’m willing to wager that Broner received more for those contests than Garcia is slated to earn for this upcoming bout)?
 
There seems to be a bit of a double-standard (or is it a Haymon-standard?). 
 
It’s a quandary for the network. You don’t want to lower the bar based on whom others have faced on your airwaves but they created this situation by lowering it in the first place.
 
WEEKEND FLURRIES
 
Golden Boy announced on Friday that the December 15th bout between Amir Khan and Carlos Molina will be staged at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Yes, the L.A. Sports Arena...Of course, that means another HBO/Top Rank - Showtime/Golden Boy conflict, as HBO plans to do a Tim Bradley card that same evening...I’m told that tickets for the Vanes Martirosyan-Erislandy Lara fight on November 10th at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas will not go on sale till Garcia’s opponent is settled on...“A Football Life” on the NFL Network on the Cleveland Browns and Bill Belichick’s staff was outstanding...I thought while “Broke” on ESPN was cliché, it was still very instructive in many ways and I still enjoyed it (and it had an appearance from Shelly Finkel talking about Evander Holyfield)...All the good college football games this weekend start at around the same time (7-7:30 p.m., ET)...I think for Miami to have a chance versus Notre Dame, they have to spread it offensively and play at a quick tempo. They also have to win the turnover battle...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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