Bulked Up or Scaled Down?
The Arturo Gatti who showed up for his Feb. 26 fight with Joey Gamache at Madison Square Garden was a middleweight in junior welterweight's clothing. In the 30 hours between the weigh-in and the bout, Gatti gorged himself on water and pasta and bulked up 19 pounds to 160, according to a weigh-in conducted on the day of the fight by HBO. He floored the 145-pound Gamache three times—twice in Round 1—before knocking him unconscious 41 seconds into Round 2. Gamache stayed on the canvas for seven minutes and spent two days in a hospital with a concussion.
Claiming he suffered permanent neurological damage, the now-retired Gamache says he plans to file a $5 million lawsuit against the New York State Athletic Commission, alleging fraud and negligence. Gatti, he contends, was far above the prescribed 141-pound limit, rendering the match unfair.
"The way Gatti ballooned up three divisions in a day blew my mind," says former Olympic boxing coach Al Mitchell, who has followed the controversy with interest. "When a guy puts on 19 pounds, that's a nightmare."
Until recently, weighins were held the day of the fight To make weight, boxers would sometimes spar in rubber suits, sweat themselves dry in saunas, even gulp down Lasix to spur dehydration. "It wasn't safe," says Mitchell. "Guys would drain themselves of fluids and enter the ring weak, their bodies used up."
Partly to give boxers more time to revitalize, and partly as a concession to the TV entities that deplore late cancellations, some state commissions began holding weigh-ins 24 to 36 hours before matches. "I like early weigh-ins," says Mitchell. "Fighters have more time to rehydrate." Counters veteran trainer Gil Clancy, "Early weigh-ins are absolutely ridiculous. Just look how Gatti took advantage of it."
Acknowledging the latter point, Mitchell offers a compromise: Re-weigh fighters a few hours before bouts and limit the number of pounds they are allowed to put back on. "Fighters would be forced to fight at more natural weights," Mitchell says. "If they tried to pull a Gatti, the fight would be called off."
Big Apple Resurgence
Move Over, Las Vegas
Las Vegas has been the undisputed heavyweight champion of fight towns for more than a decade, but the procurement of the Lennox Lewis-Michael Grant bout by Madison Square Garden is the latest sign that New York is making a comeback.
Home to Ali-Frazier I nearly three decades ago and countless other memorable bouts of yore, the Garden, boxing's self-styled mecca, had lost its luster in more recent times. It hosted just six title fights between 1987 and '96 and seemed incapable of properly handling even lower-profile, nontitle bouts—witness the lack of sufficient security at the July '96 Riddick Bowe—Andrew Golota debacle, which ended in a riot during which 14 spectators were injured.