HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Six months after he almost retired, Arturo Gatti said he has his desire back as he heads into tonight's World Boxing Council welterweight title bout against reigning champ Carlos Baldomir.
``I'm very excited, very nervous," Gatti said. ``I haven't felt like this since I fought Tracy Patterson in '95, my first title fight. I want this fight more than ever."
Beating Patterson earned Gatti the International Boxing Federation junior lightweight title, his first. He went on to win the WBC junior welterweight belt in 2004 against Gianluca Branco at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall, the same arena where he will face Baldomir.
The chance to win a belt in a third weight class is one motivator for the 34-year-old Gatti, who admitted after beating Thomas Damgaard in January that he had decided a loss to the unbeaten Dane would signal the end of the line after 15 years and 47 fights.
That became unnecessary when he stopped Damgaard in the 11th round, an outcome that also eased some of the sting of a lopsided beating Gatti absorbed at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr. the previous June.
In the 35-year-old Baldomir (42-9-6, 12 KOs), Gatti will face a fighter who has only been knocked down once as a professional, and who shocked Zab Judah in January to win the welterweight title as a big underdog.
Gatti (40-7, 31 KOs) beat Damgaard by mixing up his attack, fighting in a lefthanded stance in stretches and not relying on the toe-to-toe brawling style that has been his hallmark. He may need to do the same against Baldomir.
``We've got to box him, we've got to be really smart," said Buddy McGirt, Gatti's trainer. ``You've got to be ready for a long night. He's not one of those guys who can knock you out with one punch, but he's just strong, and constant. I'd rather fight a puncher because you know what to look for with a puncher. With a guy like this, you don't know what to expect."