Dan Rafael's blog has a list of the guys that have been considered to face Arturo Gatti on July 14, which is to be Gatti's farewell fight on HBO, and possibly the final fight of his storied career. There are a lot of interesting names that have been in the mix, so let's run them down and talk it out.
This isn't happening, as Gatti and his camp decided that a mobile southpaw wasn't quite what they were looking for. Let's put it this way right now: Gatti is looking for someone he can beat or at least not get embarrassed by. There's nothing wrong with that, fighters like Gatti or the recently-possibly retired Johnny Tapia deserve to go out on their terms. Spadafora's two comeback fights at light welterweight have received mixed reviews, but Gatti is probably right to not want to mix it up with "The Pittsburgh Kid" -- Spadafora has a ton to gain for his career right now by beating Gatti on HBO, and Gatti doesn't have anything to gain by having Spadafora potentially run circles around him.
He's a regular with Broadway Boxing. This is supposedly Gatti's preference, as he likes Santana and would like to give him a break on HBO. HBO isn't keen on the idea, as Santana is an unproven fighter without a pretty, spotless record, at 21-2 with 13 KOs.
The Gatti camp doesn't want to fight Hopkins because they don't want the crowd booing when Hopkins won't engage in the blood-and-guts spectacle that is an Arturo Gatti fight. They're also right, Hopkins would run, and the Boardwalk Hall crowd wouldn't let him hear the end of it. And what's the point in that? This is a farewell, not a do or die. Frankly speaking, Demetrius Hopkins is a bunk fighter that's high on my peeves list in boxing right now, and I'd rather not see Gatti fight him, either.
The man who beat Hopkins only to have judges see some sort of illusion or devious trickery and give Hopkins a lopsided win. The Gatti camp is not on board with this one. From Pat Lynch, Gatti's manager: "With Forbes, you're looking to give me a better version of Ivan Robinson. We don't need that." See? At least they're being honest. I don't think Forbes is the best matchup in any way; I think he'd clearly beat Gatti, but I don't think he'd provide for the most exciting fight. Forbes took it straight at Hopkins because he knew he could, because he knew Hopkins had never been in a rough, scrapping fight that really tested his will. Gatti isn't Hopkins.
HBO was said to be considering this matchup, as Salita is an OK draw with the Jewish community in New York. He has a nice record at 27-0-1, coming off of a win over Grover Wiley this past week. Salita is another guy the Gatti camp really wants, and I have to think part of that is Gatti wanting to give someone the rub, as well as provide an exciting fight. HBO wants a big name, but the problem is, there aren't many big names that are going to give anyone what they want to see out of this fight, or many that are not already busy or in negotation to be busy. Diego Corrales had come up a while ago, but that didn't materialize, and now he's fighting Clottey. A guy like Salita getting a shot against Arturo Gatti could be the best thing to come out of this fight.
This probably has no chance of happening. Hatton would reportedly love to fight Gatti, and who could blame him? Frankly, I think this would be fun. Hatton has never had a real test, but he's Ricky Hatton's brother, and that has some small appeal to it. It'd be action. It's out of the question, though.
Hector Camacho, Jr.
Rafael says both were offered. Rafael says both were turned down. Truthfully, I'd sit down with a beer and watch the elder Camacho fight Gatti. Why not?
Hasn't fought since 2004, but his wife contacted Cedric Kushner, who got in touch with Lynch. Manfredy is looking to fight again. It would be a rematch of their 1998 bout, which was typical Gatti fare. Like Hatton and the Camachos, this won't happen.
Ndou badly wants the fight. He's also the best fighter on this list. Ndou has gone on record calling out Gatti for this fight, but not in any way that could be remotely considered disrespectful: "Our styles suit each other perfectly. The fans will be asking for more. This fight will be such a great battle that this will end up being a trilogy. ... I have great respect for Arturo Gatti and what he has achieved. He is the people's champion to the fans because of what he gives in the ring. If there were more fighters like him, boxing would be in much better health."
I'd expect Salita at this point, really. All this thought over a 40-8 fighter that's on his way out. I guess that just shows what Arturo Gatti really has meant to boxing. He embodies the boxing we all think of when the sport first enters our mind. Tough, gritty, never-say-die. He's a Rocky fighter. No matter who he fights, I'll be in front of my TV to raise my glass to Arturo Gatti for perhaps the final time, and there'll be a few thousand people at Boardwalk Hall to do the same.