Nothing like Danish to satisfy HBO’s appetite for Gatti

Jan 24, 2006 3:03 AM

Fair’s fair, but this is about boxing, which means it’s also about bucks.

In this week’s dissertation, however, the bucks will not be at the betting windows. I doubt if Belize or Uruguay would put up a line on this mismatch, where the off-the-board "underdog" is an undefeated southpaw.

Something smells rotten in the state of Denmark.

The big upcoming TV fight, HBO Jan. 28 from another sold-out Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall arena features the fair-haired (actually, more fair-skinned) blood-and-guts hero Arturo ”˜Thunder’ Gatti. At 33 and off an embarrassing butchering by Floyd Mayweather Jr., the loveable warrior seems well beyond the capabilities of Thomas Damgaard.

The 34-year-old Damgaard is 37-0 with 27 knockouts fashioned against the usual herrings that swim in Danish seas — or at least according to oddsmakers. Maybe Gatti was having trouble making 140 pounds for Mayweather last summer. Now he’s at 147 and should be stronger.

The real key to this fight — other than giving HBO some live fodder for its taped showing of the Jan. 21 pay-per-view Erik Morales-Manny Pacquiao dance — can be seen down the road.

Gatti needs to be rehabilitated, even if it’s against someone whose biggest victories were over some shopworn names like Greg Haugen, Phillip Holiday, Peter Malinga and Khalid Rahilou. He’s a face-first aggressive fighter with no great defense, cuts easily and has been down several times. The Dane seems tailor-made for Gatti, who when not facing someone the caliber of Mayweather, can actually look like a skilled boxer.

Mayweather aside, the most marketable talent in the 147-pound range consists of guys HBO could at least dare line up for Gatti. Topping that list are Carlos Baldomir, the Argentine coming off the upset of Zab Judah, and Ricky Hatton, the 140-pound world champion who made Kostya Tszyu quit.

HBO already passed on the rather ordinary Baldomir as a pay-per-view substitute for the defrocked Judah against Mayweather. Hatton seems willing to let the Mayweather match stew for a bit longer, hoping it peaks by the end of the year. So if Gatti looks credible beating Damgaard, he would more than usual rate as the HBO house favorite.

The irony of Gatti beating Mayweather to either Baldomir or Hatton, of course, is part of the wonder of boxing. Imagine if teams got into the World Series or Super Bowl simply because their jerseys sell better than other clubs. And Gatti should not only beat Damgaard, he should do so impressively with just the right amount of violence and brutality that HBO can take to the bank for his next fight.

Damgaard will be moving straight at New Jersey’s favorite non-Soprano HBO star, allowing Gatti to use the impressive countering maneuvers taught him by trainer Buddy McGirt. It should be over somewhere early in the second half of the fight. Damgaard will not roll over. He’s a tough guy, but limited even more so than Gatti.

No piece of Danish blah cheese is going to stop HBO from nibbling some more at its precious money-maker.

From the Katz-bird seat

”¡ Atlantic City, minus the never-closed Irish Pub on St. James just off the Boardwalk, is truly a cesspool with casinos. It will be busy the night before with a pay-per-view card that again — even in the most depraved Internet ports of Central America — has no lines posted. Even with a possible Hall of Famer like Virgil Hill on top, the card seems more like a cheap Atlantic City buffet than a gourmand’s temptation. There’s Hill, the other side of 40, against some Russian. Also on the card are fights featuring Nate Campbell, Stevie (remember him?) Johnston and a strawweight title bout.

”¡ Boxing is making it tough to lose money early in 2006. On Feb. 4 was to have been the delicious rubber match between Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales. However, Corrales suffered a rib injury in training and his sub is hardly the type to risk cash money on against Castillo. Who cares? There’ll be this big football game that weekend, I hear.