The tides almost stopped turning in the ninth, when a left hook to the liver dropped the weary Gatti. Things looked so grim that McGirt climbed onto the ring apron to throw in the towel, but Gatti rose from his knees and, drawing from a hidden reservoir of strength, fought on. He threw 100 punches to take the 10th and almost pulled out a victory. He lost a majority decision by the thinnest of margins.
Having failed to follow McGirt's instructions to box and move in that fight, Gatti was a model student in the rematches. Rather than trade shots, he danced invitingly beyond the flailing Ward's reach, frustrating him. Though Gatti broke his right hand late in the first rematch and mangled it so badly in the third fight of the trilogy that he fought the last seven rounds one-handed, he won both bouts comfortably on points. "Standing and swinging away is fun," Gatti reasons. "But if I box, I create openings and make it easy on myself."
Expect Gatti to box the unbeaten Dorin, an intractable banger from Romania. "The only way he can hurt me is if he gets in close," says Gatti, who will defend the title he won in a 12-round decision over Gianluca Branco last January. "I like being the champ too much to get into another slugfest."
The only thing he loves more is golf, another merciless sport. "It improves my focus, my patience," Gatti says.
On the links his most formidable foe has been his partner in pain, Ward. Gatti hasn't 3 won a match—yet. "I'll play till I beat him," he says, grinning. "I'm a sore loser."