“Down goes Gatti on a perfect left hook! Textbook left hook by Manfredy!”
Jim Lampley’s voice bellowed over the roar from the packed house inside the Convention Center in Atlantic City. Gatti leaped to his feet at the count of three from referee Wayne Hedgepeth.
Larry Merchant, seated next to Lampley, saw that Gatti was feeling the effects from the Manfredy left hand. “And he is hurt and hurt badly.”
We were in the third round of a back-and-forth drama between Arturo “Thunder” Gatti (29-1, 24 KOs) and Angel “El Diablo” Manfredy (22-2-1, 18 KOs).
The year was 1998.
The cold tide pushed in and out off the boardwalk as winter gripped most of the country. On a chilly Saturday night in January, both fighters agreed to settle their differences at 135 pounds.
Manfredy, wearing white trunks with red trim and high red stockings, had dogged Gatti for months. Tonight he was getting his wish.
Thus far, he was making the best of it.
A snappy right hand from Manfredy had sliced open Gatti’s right eye in Round 1. Now forced to pull himself off the canvas, he was in all likelihood behind on the scorecards.
But this was Gatti’s world. Down, hurt, and bleeding, he had been here so many times before to rescue himself. His recent victories over Wilson Rodriguez and Gabe Ruelas was the stuff of legend.
Partially blind from cuts and swelling, hurt, and behind on the scorecards, he had snatched victory from defeat. His refusal to give in and his ability to come back when all looked lost, rapidly made him a fan favorite.
On this night, true to form, Gatti began to rally in Round 4 by launching a vicious assault to Manfredy’s body.
Lampley’s voice rose, “Arturo Gatti remembering to go to the body and now pounding away at Manfredy’s rib cage with vicious shots! Rights and lefts and staying almost exclusively downstairs! And now Manfredy drops his hands!”
Gatti, wearing his now traditional white trunks with blue trim, had shifted into fifth gear and was pushing Manfredy backward. The crowd roared chanting, “Gatti! Gatti! Gatti!”
“Big” George Foreman loved the body assault, “Gatti going right back to the body of Manfredy. That’s very important at this point. This guy’s well trained. Manfredy has never had a body attack of this sort.”
Gatti had come back and seized command of the fight.
In Round 5 of a scheduled 12, Manfredy was showing the world that he was no slouch. He had been impressive notching wins over Jorge Paez and, like Gatti, Rodriguez. Gatti was blistering him with right hands and Gatling gun left hooks. Thus far, the Manfredy chin was rock solid.
Rounds 6 and 7 continued the back-and-forth war, each man taking the opportunity to hammer his opponents head and body. Defense was being sold out for offense as each man was giving as good as he was taking.
Right hand leads from Manfredy began landing more and more at will as the blood streamed down Gatti’s left eye and down the side of his face. While Gatti continued to press forward, he continued to wipe at the blood flowing from his eye.
The crowd again roared in approval of the action leaving Lampley to note, “And halfway through, this bout is everything it was cracked up to be and more.”
In between rounds, there was concern from the doctor in Gatti’s corner. The cut was worsening. Joe Souza, one of the best cutmen in the business, was doing his normal outstanding job. The eye, however, was rapidly deteriorating.
The bell sounded to begin Round 8. While Gatti continued to attack, Manfredy was moving and firing first class counterpunches, repeatedly strafing Gatti as he came in.
With 10 seconds remaining in the round and the blood streaming down Gatti’s face, Hedgepeth called time to bring in the ring doctor. Foreman quickly noted, “That eye looks like a faucet.” It took seconds for the doctor to recommend the fight be stopped.
Angel Manfredy had scored a hard fought, exciting TKO victory at 2:57 of Round 8.
At the time of the stoppage, two of the judges had the bout scored 68-65 and 67-65 for Manfredy. The third judge had it scored even at 66-66.
Later that year, in December, Manfredy would face Floyd Mayweather Jr. He was stopped inside of two rounds. He would fight into 2004 and face top flight opponents in Diego Corrales and score a thrilling victory over Ivan Robinson.
Gatti’s loss to Manfredy began his suffering through a three-fight losing streak. He would come back to win a world title and enjoy multiple “Fight of the Year” honors. He retired from the sport in 2007. Tragically, he left us all too soon in July of 2009.