Gatti's victory might set up shot at Baldomir

Arturo Gatti punished previously unbeaten welterweight Thomas Damgaard of Denmark on Saturday night en route to an 11th-round TKO at Boardwalk Hall.

Originally Published: January 28, 2006
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- The last time Arturo Gatti fought he took a beating. This time he served one.

Gatti, who last June absorbed hellacious punishment from Floyd Mayweather Jr. in losing his junior welterweight title via a sixth-round TKO, trounced Thomas Damgaard of Denmark on Saturday night en route to an 11th-round TKO at Boardwalk Hall.

Gatti, who was moving up to welterweight, showed no ill effects from the Mayweather fight. He threw crisp, hard combinations and used many of the boxing skills that trainer Buddy McGirt has preached at him to use.

Arturo Gatti/Thomas Damgaard
Al Bello/Getty ImagesGatti (right) hurt his brittle right hand in the fourth round. He also fought despite a right rib cage injury.

The result was his opponent taking the sort of flush punches that Gatti (40-7, 31 KOs) so often has during his exciting career.

"Damgaard was stronger than I thought," Gatti said. "Even though he never fought in the United States before, he proved that he was world class."

The victory could set up an unexpected title opportunity for Gatti against Carlos Baldomir, who pulled off a major upset of Zab Judah on Jan. 7. It's a fight that Gatti wants.

"Next I definitely want to fight Baldomir," said Gatti, who previously has won titles at junior welterweight and junior lightweight. "It's money for him and an opportunity for me."

The fight with Damgaard (37-1) was a hard-hitting scrap. But despite being the smaller man, Gatti was the harder hitter. He peppered Damgaard with rights and lefts and worked the body well.

Gatti, 33, said he hurt his brittle right hand in the fourth round and he disclosed that he had injured his right rib cage during training camp.

"The right hand is something that is always going to hurt because the problem isn't with the bone, it's the ligament."

Gatti tried to protect the hand by turning southpaw several times, a move that seemed to be effective.

"I went southpaw because it was working and I was landing my uppercut," he said.

Damgaard, 34, landed some effective shots early on before Gatti subtly started to box more than he was doing.

"Buddy told me, 'don't get into a brawl with him because he's too strong,' " Gatti said. "I started to exchange with him but he was getting the better of the exchanges so I went back to boxing."

It worked and by the 11th, Damgaard had taken massive punishment. He had a cut on his hairline, a bloody nose and a bruised face.

Several clean shots appeared to hurt Damgaard -- who earned about $500,000 -- throughout the bout but none more than the finishing blow. Gatti, who made $1.4 million, crushed him with a right hand and the shot sent Damgaard staggering sideways, and almost to the canvas.

Although Damgaard didn't go down, it was clear he was out of it and referee Lindsey Page stopped the fight at 2:54, much to the delight of the frenzied pro-Gatti crowd of 11,568.

Earlier in the round, Damgaard had put himself in an even deeper hole on the scorecards than he already was when Page deducted a point from the desperate Danish southpaw for holding Gatti behind the head while punching with his other hand.

Damgaard, a former European welterweight and junior welterweight champ, was fighting in the United States for the first time but didn't appear fazed by the occasion.

He never stopped pressing forward even when he was eating punches.

"I was hurt, but I think I could have gone the rest of the way," Damgaard said.

For Gatti, the fight was a fine line between the potential title shot with Baldomir and the end.

"After the last fight I had, I told myself that if I didn't win tonight I would hang up the gloves no matter how difficult it was," he said.

With the impressive victory in hand, that decision can wait.

Also on the card:

• Exciting featherweight prospect Jason Litzau stepped up his level of competition against former world title challenger Carlos Contreras and stopped him in the sixth round.

Litzau (17-0, 15 KOs), an all-action fighter who throws a lot of punches and has been compared to a young Gatti, dominated Contreras (20-12-3) and landed almost at will.

Although there was no particularly devastating punch, Litzau just had finished landing a combination in the sixth when the referee stepped in and called it off at 1:17.

Contreras, who lost a decision against then-junior featherweight champ Lehlo Ledwaba in a title challenge, also went the distance in a loss to former multi-division champ Johnny Tapia.

• Heavyweight BJ Flores (15-0-1) pounded out a lopsided eight-round decision against journeyman Jermell Barnes (17-11). Flores, a former standout amateur, won on scores of 80-72 (twice) and 78-74.

• Heavyweight Malik Scott (24-0) cruised to an eight-round decision against Kendrick Releford (13-7-1), winning one of his typically action-free fights. Scott controlled the action with his jab to win 80-72 and 79-73 (twice).

Scott's victory came with mentor and former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis at ringside, where he was calling the fight in an audition for the role of expert analyst for HBO's revamped "Boxing After Dark," which premiers on April 29.

• Rudy Markussen (32-1, 20 KOs), a Danish super middleweight contender and a stablemate of Damgaard, blew out Brock Stodden (17-11-1) in two rounds. Markussen dropped the flabby Stodden with a body shot in the second round and pummeled him until the referee stopped it at 2:19 of the second.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

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