My vacation was over, and there I was touching down in the United States on a packed airplane. After turning on my cell phone, a barrage of text messages began popping up one after another.
Freezing up while I waited for the plane to empty, I couldn’t believe my eyes. For a few moments I stood there replaying Gatti’s infamous fight highlights and training montages I had seen before in my head. This man, who had become a hero, idol and inspiration to me, had fallen – One thing he prided himself in never doing, even when he lost. The man who could endure it all – suddenly graduated to a legend. It was far too early. He was only 37.
Before his death, those who followed boxing knew that Gatti was a rare breed; a fighter reminiscent of boxing legends who fought relentlessly, out of pure passion. Most compared his drive for success similar to the boxer, which remains the only heavyweight champion in boxing history to retire having won every fight in his professional career (49-0), Rocky Marciano. Gatti, too, finished with 49 fights (40-9).
When you’re compared to someone like that, it’s no surprise when you win two world titles at two different weights in you 16-year pro career.
Or when you participate in Ring Magazine’s “fight of the year” four different times (1997, 1998, 2002, and 2003). Gatti’s statistics are nothing short of incredible. You could remember Gatti’s first fight abroad when he knocked out his opponent in the first round, or you could remember any of the three Gatti – Ward fights – and be amazed.
The Arturo “Thunder” Gatti vs. Mickey “Irish” Ward fights displayed the archaic want that boxers used to and should still have. Gatti lost the first fight and took the second and the third. These three fights all housed their own incredible statistics, facts and determination. Especially the third fight.
On June 7, 2003, Gatti broke his twice-repaired right hand when his uppercut hit Ward’s hip in the fourth round. He dropped his arm and flinched in pain. He fought basically one-handed for the remainder of the fight, barely using his right. He then continued to dominate the sixth round, but caught a right overhand to the head and went down before the second bell was finished. After this, Gatti recovered and the rest of the fight was in his hands as he won with the final scorecards; 96-93, 96-93, 97-92.
Nothing will touch the passion and incredible yearn for success that these two displayed in this trilogy, they remained close friends through it and after it. Ward later trained Gatti for his last fight which he lost and retired after the bout.
The details of Gatti’s death are extremely upsetting, suspicious and permanent.
Gatti was found murdered in his hotel in Ipojuca, Pernambuco, Brazil. He and wise wife and 1-year-old child were celebrating their second honeymoon. Gatti’s widow, 23-year-old ex-stripper Amanda Rodriguez has been charged with first-degree murder after the strap of her purse, used to strangle Gatti, was found stained in blood at the scene.
Many of Gatti’s friends have commented about how he and his wife have had problems. Gatti, no stranger to the nightlife, having a reputation for hard drinking and partying, was said to have been drinking heavily the night he was murdered out with his wife and child. Gatti and his wife were seen arguing intensly, and Gatti left with his child and came back to pick up his wife, they then left together.
Joe Gatti, Arturo’s brother, whose boxing career interested and persuaded Arturo to fight suspects Rodrigues as the culprit.
Ivano Scarpa, longtime friend of Gatti, thought it was suspecious that the death occured in Rodrigues’ home town. Gatti’s financial success was also an issue. Gatti’s stepfather, Geraldo Di Francesco, told the Journal de Monreal that Rodrigues tried to have Gatti change his will to give her more money. Gatti’s business partner, Tony Rizzo, and ex-manager Pat Lynch “told him not to do it.”
The couple, who married 2 years ago, were no strangers to negative publicity. Gatti often left their penthouse to sleep as his mother’s house.
Unfortunately, the Gatti family is no stranger to tragic publicity.
Gatti’s sister Anna-Maria, the ex-wife of the stained boxer Dave Hilton Jr., sexually abused their two children and was stripped of his WBC title and sentenced to seven years in jail.
Arturo “Thunder” Gatti will be remembered not for these blemishes but for his undying spirit that lives in only the Greats. He grew to become known as a authentic warrior who refused to go down easily. I am thankful that I was able to witness a boxer in my age with such qualities.