NEW YORK (AP) – Floyd Mayweather certainly knows how to make an entrance.

Arriving an hour earlier than expected Wednesday for a news conference to hype his fight with WBC super lightweight champion Arturo Gatti, Mayweather confidently climbed up onto the dais and began posing in a white tank-top for the assembled cameras.

Gatti simply looked on, watching through sunglasses as a smiling Mayweather and his entourage noisily announced their presence.

Then, after Mayweather made a show of leaving the dais to go to the buffet line, Gatti stepped to the microphone. He cursed at his opponent, vowed to knock him out Saturday and walked out.

The moment summed up both fighters: Mayweather, the brash, charismatic challenger who feels it’s as much his job as that of any promoter to hype a bout, and Gatti, the battle-tested warrior in the ring, known for his ability to absorb punishment and his belief that “talk is cheap.”

“I think he’s trying to convince himself,” Gatti said earlier about Mayweather’s trash talking. “I think he’s terrified. He knows he’s fighting a different breed, a different animal.”

This weekend’s fight at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., which will be broadcast live on HBO pay-per-view, is being billed as “Thunder vs. Lightning” and it’s one of the most anticipated bouts of the year. Gatti (39-6, 29 knockouts) is the 140-pound champion, but Mayweather comes in undefeated in 33 fights with 22 knockouts.

Mayweather has been outspoken in the time leading up to the fight, saying Gatti is no better than a glorified club pro. On Wednesday, he called Gatti a “paper champion” and questioned his reputation as one of the sport’s most exciting fighters, earned through bruising bouts such as his trilogy with Micky Ward.

“It ain’t cool to bleed,” Mayweather said.

A former WBC super featherweight and lightweight champion himself, Mayweather is looking for his first title in the 140-pound division. He and Gatti were scheduled to fight June 11, but the fight was canceled when Gatti’s promoter, Main Events Inc., said Mayweather missed a deadline to sign a contract.

While Gatti arrived almost an hour after he was scheduled to speak with the media, Mayweather came early, clearly reveling in the attention. The fighters had been scheduled to be available to the media about two hours apart. But the fact that he disrupted Gatti’s news conference didn’t seem to bother Mayweather.

“I just came early,” he said with a mischievous smile.

The crowd Saturday will have a definite pro-Gatti feel. The fighter, who lives in Jersey City, has become a favorite in Atlantic City, but neither he nor Mayweather expects the crowd to play much of a role.

And when the fight is over, despite all the pre-fight rancor, Mayweather expects to walk across the ring to acknowledge Gatti.

“It’s not like I hate the guy,” Mayweather said. “This is business.”

Still, he had a message for those who’ll be watching Saturday.

“Buy the Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton pay-per-view after the Floyd Mayweather-Arturo Gatti fight,” he said, referring to the British IBF light welterweight champion who is a possible future opponent.

Gatti’s camp, of course, sees things a different way.

“Mayweather’s facing the best guy. Arturo’s facing the best guy,” Gatti trainer Buddy McGirt said. “After Saturday night, Arturo will be the best of the best.”

Not to be outdone by Mayweather in the brash department, WBA junior welterweight champ Vivian Harris – who is defending his title against Carlos Maussa on the Gatti-Mayweather undercard – used his time at the news conference to berate Mayweather. Saying Mayweather had ducked a fight with him before, Harris cursed and yelled at the fighter before being drowned out by retorts from Mayweather’s camp.


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