By Robert Coster
Photo: Ed Mulholland
The news shocked the boxing world: Arturo Gatti dead at 37, due to foul play. A week after Alexis Arguello’s suicide, boxing lost another great champion in tragic fashion. For over a decade, the charismatic Arturo Gatti was one of HBO’s top dogs and the reason was known to all: Arturo was the quintessential warrior, valor in its purest form, providing drama each time he stepped into the ring. The Italian-Canadian was a real life phoenix rising from the ashes, coming back so many times from the brink of defeat, showing unbelievable physical courage while receiving brutal punishment, being both predator and prey. An Arturo Gatti fight was better than the best Hollywood thriller simply because it was reality, not fiction. The drama was real, the anguish was real, the pain was real. And triumph, when it came, gave Gatti the dimension of a gladiator of the past overcoming inhuman hardship.
Highlights of Arturo’s career include:
On December 15, 1995, Gatti won the IBF junior lightweight title with a decision over Tracy Harris Patterson.
On March 23, 1996, Arturo defends against Dominican challenger Wilson Rodriguez. Arturo’s is cut, knocked down in the second round and by the third round, his left eye is totally shut. The referee and doctor are on the brink of stopping the fight in the fouth round. Gatti’s corner beg for an extra round. Arturo dramatically knocks out Rodriguez in the sixth round. Ring Magazine calls it “the fight of the year”
October 4, 1997, Gatti vs Gabriel Ruelas. Ruelas knocks Arturo down. In the fourth round Ruelas connects 17 unanswered punches, the referee almost stops it. In the fifth round, Arturo knocks Ruelas out with a single punch. This fight is also chosen as fight of the year for 1997.
Gatti moves up in weight and faces Ivan Robinson in two memorable bouts, both losing fights for Arturo . The second bout, on August 22, 1998, is elected fight of the year.
There is, of course, the epic trilogy (some have called it “thrillogy”) with Mickey Ward beteween 2002 and 2003. The ninth round of their second fight was called “round of the century” by Emanuel Steward. In the rubber match between Gatti and Ward (June 7, 2003), Gatti overcame a knockdown and a broken hand from the fourth round on. It’s chosen as fight of the year, again, and for the fourth time in Arturo’s career.
On June 24, 2004, Gatti wins his second division title, the vacant WBC junior welterweight title with a decision over Gianlucca Branco. After being stopped by Alfonso Gomez July 14, 2007, Gatti retires with a 40-9 record with 31 KOs.
Unbelievably, Arturo was an HBO headliner 20 times, evidence of his popularity as a TV boxer. One-sided losses to Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather did little to diminish Gatti’s appeal.
The little Italian-Canadian’s memory will always conjure the images of the violent, memorable and classic battles he waged in the ring. Maybe the English language should incorporate the adjective ” Gatti-esque” in its vocabulary so one could talk “Gattiesque courage” or “Gattiesque grit.”
The day he is incorporated in to the Boxing Hall of Fame, Arturo Gatti will-unluckily-not be physically present to enjoy that honor, but his spirit and the memories will certainly be there. Rest in Peace, Arturo Gatti.