Lee Groves

10: Best fights staged in Montreal

6. Sept. 8, 2000 – Arturo Gatti W 10 Joe Hutchinson, Molson Centre

 

 

Given that Gatti was raised in Montreal, it's hard to believe that the Hutchinson fight was his one and only appearance in "Quebec's Metropolis." In fact, it also was "Thunder's" only bout in Canada but, as one would expect, he made it one to remember.

On paper, it wasn't supposed to be so difficult. Hutchinson,  a native of Indianapolis, came into the fight with a glittery 18-0-2 record but a deeper look revealed modest power (eight KOs) against even more modest competition as his last five opponents had a combined 72-247-17 record — or a dismal .219 winning percentage. Yes, Hutchinson's left-handedness might be problematic but he otherwise appeared to be an easy mark.

Meanwhile, Gatti was on the comeback trail after a horrible 1998 that saw him go 0-3 and a 1999 campaign that only saw him fight once (KO 1 Reyes Munoz in August). Gatti began 2000 with two-round blowouts of Joey Gamache in February and Eric Jakubowski in April. Gatti's already considerable advantages were magnified at the weigh-in when he scaled 147 to Hutchinson's 141 1/2. Moreover, he told ESPN blow-by-blow man Bob Papa he intended to weigh 160 come fight night.

Both fight plans were patently obvious. Gatti's was to crush Hutchinson as quickly as possible while Hutchinson hoped to use his mobility and sharp-shooting to achieve two aims: Get the fight into the later rounds and work Gatti's tender scar tissue.

No one could have guessed how effective Hutchinson would end up being because with a minute left in round two an accidental butt opened a long, deep gash above Gatti's left eye that prompted referee Michael Griffin to order an immediate examination by the ringside physician. Ever the opportunist, chief second Lou Duva used the doctor's passivity to treat the cut with a medicine-saturated swab. Griffin discreetly – and inaccurately – ruled the cut was caused by a punch.

Gatti's troubles deepened in the third when another butt – this time officially recognized – created a cut over the right eye, which, in turn, posed a potential dilemma: If the fight were stopped due to the right eye cut – the less severe of the two – the result would either be a no contest (if stopped before four rounds) or a technical decision (after four rounds) but if the more threatening right eye gash forced a premature ending the result would be a Hutchinson victory no matter what. Human nature being what it is, guess which cut would receive more leeway?

Knowing a bad result could be on the immediate horizon, Gatti wildly gunned for the KO and in doing so he sought to even the score by diving in head first. When that didn't work he drove both hands to the body while Hutchinson continued to score with light but accurate counters.

Gatti shifted into full war mode in round four by working over Hutchinson's body and head with trademark fervor. But Gatti's overflowing desire got the best of him again when a right to the groin forced Griffin to deduct a point. While cut man Joe Souza managed to control the blood over the right eye, the crimson from the other orb was beyond his – or anyone else's – abilities. Hutchinson's stabbing blows hardly helped either, and one couldn't help but be impressed with the visitor's understated fearlessness.

Gatti finally earned some good fortune in the sixth when a left uppercut to the chest decked Hutchinson. The American protested the call and replays proved inconclusive.

Hutchinson's rattling combinations in the final 40 seconds stole the seventh but he gave back that ground when he lost a point for butting in the eighth. Hutchinson briefly rocked Gatti with a hook in the ninth while Gatti began the 10th with a determined rally. That surge, combined with the blood loss, severely depleted Gatti's energy and for most of the final minute the crowd favorite unashamedly slapped on a series of clock-melting clinches. Despite his obvious weariness, Gatti still summoned one final burst in the fight's waning moments.

The CompuBox stats had Gatti a convincing 208-148 leader in terms of total connects and the local judges agreed. Andre Bidegare scored the fight 98-93 while Richard DeCarufel had Gatti an even wider winner at 99-92. Sylvain Leblanc, obviously forgetting that Gatti was penalized a point in round four, turned in a 100-92 scorecard.

The 22,000 fans that jammed the Molson Centre got what they paid for – and more. And that, in a nutshell, is the Gatti legacy.

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