Gatti enlists Ward’s aid to train for ‘Contender’

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NEW YORK (AP) – Arturo Gatti believes with trainer Micky Ward in his corner, he’ll box, not brawl, against Alfonso Gomez of “The Contender.”

Gatti enlisted his former rival, looking to forsake his street-brawling style and outsmart the 26-year-old Gomez in the welterweight fight Saturday in Atlantic City.

“He brought out the best in me,” said Gatti, who broke his right hand winning the last of three epic slugfests with Ward in 2003. “He’s the toughest guy I ever fought in my life.”

The 35-year-old Gatti is looking to regain his confidence after hitting the canvas twice in a ninth-round knockout at the hands of Carlos Baldomir, who defended his WBC welterweight title last July.

Saturday’s fight is part of a tripleheader card on HBO featuring IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron against Walter Matthysse. WBO champion Antonio Margarito will defend his 147-pound title against Paul Williams.

Ward called Gomez a “little lion” but he expects the experience of two-time world champion Gatti (40-8, 31 KOs) to overshadow youth.

Gomez (16-3-2, 7 KOs) won in the first season of “The Contender” by defeating Peter Manfredo.

Trained by his ex-boxer father, Gomez has won four of his last five bouts.

“The Contender gave me the exposure to be known around the world among boxing fans and non-boxing fans,” Gomez said. “That’s probably why I’m standing here.”

In March, he TKO’d Martin Concepcion as part of the Contender Challenge of Britain against the United States.

“I’ve always looked for the opportunity to showcase my talent,” Gomez said. “I have the privilege to do it against someone who I looked up to since I was a kid. It’s definitely an honor and a privilege.”

Gatti, a Jersey City resident, is making his ninth straight appearance at Boardwalk Hall. It’s the first Atlantic City and East Coast appearance for Gomez, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and lives in Whittier, Calif.

“I haven’t even reached my prime yet, I’m getting there,” Gomez said. “At this point in my career, I think I can beat Arturo Gatti, who is living legend. But at the same time, I think he’s on his way out.”

Gatti said he isn’t considering retirement.

“I’m going to win this fight,” he said. “I’m going to look for bigger things. I know I have a couple good fights in me left.”

Cintron (27-1, 25 KOs) captured the vacant IBF welterweight championship in October when he defeated Mark Suarez. Matthysse (26-1, 25 KOs) stopped Jorge Gomez in two rounds in his last fight.

Matthysse was a no-show at the press conference because of a rare snowstorm in Buenos Aires. Cintron trained six weeks in Austria and sparred seven rounds with heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.

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