Gatti set to take on Dorin |

Gatti set to take on Dorin

If it’s true that styles make fights, Saturday’s bout between WBC super lightweight titlist Arturo Gatti and former WBA lightweight beltholder Leonard Dorin, to be televised on HBO from the Boardwalk Club in Atlantic City, N.J., has all the trappings for Fight of the Year.

The 32-year-old Gatti, 37-6, with 28 knockouts, has been one half of THE RING magazine’s Fight of the Year award four times. Gatti and Mickey Ward fought an epic three-fight series between May 18, 2002, and June 7 of last year, with the first and third slugfests winning the 2002 and 2003 Fight of the Year, respectively.Gatti dropped the first fight to Ward before rebounding to take the next two.

Gatti, then the IBF junior lightweight champion, stopped Gabriel Ruelas in five rounds on the way to winning the 1997 Fight of the Year and followed with another award in 1998, losing a 10-round split decision to Ivan Robinson on Aug. 22.

The 34-year-old Dorin, 22-0-1 (8), has never won Fight of the Year honors, but two of his fights – his title-winning performance on Jan. 5, 2002, with Raul Balbi, and his May 17, 2003, draw with IBF lightweight titlist Paul Spadafora in a unification match – were strong candidates for the award.

While Kostya Tszyu remains the recognized and unified 140-pound champion, and the WBC has conferred the absurd “champion emeritus” status on the Russian-born Australian, in his last fight Gatti picked up the WBC strap this year with unanimous 12-round victory over Italian Gianluca Branco on Jan. 24.

Gatti, of Jersey City, N.J. via Montreal, Canada, broke his right hand early in the Branco fight, but dug deep and managed to drop Branco in round 10 and gut out the win.

“My hands are good now,” said Gatti in a Tuesday conference call. “I needed an operation after (the Branco) fight. I’ve been training with some new gloves that Everlast made for me. They’re big gloves and have special padding.”

Several reporters compared his upcoming fight with his famous brawls with Ward, but Gatti disagreed.

“Dorin and Mickey are two totally different guys,” Gatti said. “Dorin puts on the pressure, but I punch very hard. I have more power and speed. Mickey had a great chin and punched hard.”

Dorin, born in Ploiesti, Romania, now fights out of Montreal and is coming off an April 3 TKO of Chucky Tsuhorniawsky. Dorin had two title defenses, including a rematch with Balbi and the draw with Spadafora, but briefly left the sport after he could no longer make the135-pound weight limit and had to relinquish his title.

“I thought of retiring, but once I started training in Montreal, I learned that I was strong at 140,” Dorin said. “It’s not only the money, but I like to perform in boxing. It is in my blood.”

Dorin likes to bring the fight to his opponents and throw voluminous punches. He won the bronze medal in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics as a member of the Romanian national team and was also a world and European amateur champion. Standing only 5-foot-4, Dorin will most likely have to come forward against the 5-foot-8 Gatti, but said he is prepared to adjust if necessary.

“I always like to throw punches, but if I have to box, I’ll box,” Dorin said. “I’m one of the best boxers in the world at this weight. I don’t think Gatti has an advantage (fighting in Atlantic City, where Gatti is popular). I’ve fought everywhere in the world. It will be between me and the other fighter. I’m prepared for anything.”

Since former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist James “Buddy” McGirt began training Gatti before his Jan. 26, 2002, fight with Terronn Millett, the two-fisted warrior has integrated some boxing skills.

“Buddy has brought a lot of knowledge and he makes me think a lot in the ring,” Gatti said. “Everyone thinks I’m going to go in to brawl (with Dorin), but I can’t. He’s shorter and my punches will be going over his head. I’ll be comfortable fighting from the outside.”

But can Gatti resist getting into one of his patented wars?

“It’s in the blood,” Gatti said with a laugh. “I’m a lion. If I get hit with combinations, I have to come in with a couple of my own.”

And that’s what boxing pundits and fans everywhere are hoping for. The winner of this potentially exciting fight would be in position to face one of the many big names in boxing’s most talented division.

In addition to Tszyu, other 140-pound boxers like WBA titlist Vivian Harris, IBF interim titlist Sharmba Mitchell, former WBC super featherweight and lightweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., Spadafora, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Kelson Pinto, Francisco “Panchito” Bojado are prime candidates for the winner.

Both fighters acknowledged that bigger fights are on the horizon, but said they are choosing to focus on this fight first. It’s a good thing, too. Potentially great fights should be enjoyed before looking ahead.

Contact Mike Houser at