Originally created 01/16/04

Gatti gears up for title bid against Branco



ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Arturo Gatti is happy to be fighting someone other than Micky Ward.

Canadian-born brawler Gatti squares off Jan. 24 against unbeaten Gianluca Branco for the vacant WBC 140-pound title.

He doesn't know what to expect from Branco, but figures it can't be as hard as fighting Ward, whom he beat twice in a three-fight series that ended last June.

"It will be different," Gatti (36-6) said Thursday. "I knew what to expect from Micky. Now, it's totally different. I don't know this guy at all."

Branco, a 33-year-old Italian, brings a 32-0-1 record into the fight, his first in the United States. In his last fight, the WBC's top-ranked contender won by decision over Michel Renaud.

"He's a European fighter, and I've fought a lot of Europeans," Gatti said of Branco. "That's how I look at it. He's a standup guy, he's got a good jab and he's tough,"

Gatti, 31, the WBC's No. 2-ranked contender, hasn't watched Branco on film, leaving that task to trainer Buddy McGirt.

"The way I look at it, I'm always prepared for the worst," Gatti said. "I stay focused and that's how I motivate myself. You prepare for the worst, a big war."

The fight, to be televised by HBO, has sold about 8,500 seats, or 2,500 less than capacity at Boardwalk Hall, according to promoter Carl Moretti.