Tribute to Arturo Gatti

July 16, 2009

Days after the news first surfaced and the grisly details were chillingly confirmed, it still seems too surreal to believe that Arturo “Thunder” Gatti - the former two-division world champion, exciting blood-and-guts warrior, perennial Fight of the Year participant, and beloved fan favorite - was found dead in his hotel room in the Brazilian seaside resort of Porto de Galihnas.

Gatti’s murder was evidently the result of an unfortunate alcohol-induced argument with his wife, Amanda Rodrigues, a 23-year-old native of Brazil, and the mother of his 10-month-old son, Arturo Jr.

Professional Career Highlights

Gatti first burst onto the scene in 1995 when he won a narrow decision over Tracy Harris Patterson to capture the International Boxing Federation’s championship belt at junior lightweight.

In his first title defense, Gatti gave fight fans a glimpse into the thrilling career that lay ahead for the never-say-die warrior, as he overcame a second round knockdown and a nearly closed right eye, to spectacularly knockout challenger Wilson Rodriguez in the sixth round. This fight was the first of many Gatti battles that would garner “Fight of the Year” considerations.

Following two more defenses of his title – including a second win over Patterson - Gatti would once again excite fans with another gutsy performance against former world champ Gabriel Ruelas.

After nearly being decapitated by a hellacious Ruelas uppercut and a subsequent barrage of at least a dozen unanswered punches, Gatti came back to land a picture-perfect left hook to stop Ruelas in the very next round. The fight was chosen by many publications, including Ring Magazine, as the Fight of the Year for 1997.

Gatti and his team then made the decision to move up to lightweight, thereby relinquishing his title at 130 pounds.

Initially, the decision didn’t appear to be wise, as Gatti would lose all three of his 1998 fights. The first loss came via a TKO stoppage due to cuts against Angel Manfredy. The latter losses involved a pair of closely-contested 10-round decisions to Ivan Robinson. Gatti's first bout with Robinson was named 1998’s Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine.

Following the two Robinson losses, Gatti would go on a modest four-fight win streak against a quartet of pedestrian opponents. Gatti then struck gold by signing on to fight Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight in 2001, in what was undoubtedly at the time the biggest fight of Gatti’s career. However, he was soundly defeated in five rounds by a much bigger and more talented Golden Boy.

Gatti rebounded with an impressive fourth round stoppage of Terron Millett at Madison Square Garden, and then embarked on the most famous chapter of his career - his epic three-fight trilogy with “Irish” Micky Ward.

After dropping his first fight with Ward via a tight 10 round majority decision, Gatti came back to win the series by taking the last two fights in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Still, one could claim that both fighters "lost," as neither man was ever the same fighter thanks to the pounding suffered from those three wars.

Nevertheless, Gatti and Ward will always be remembered with admiration by fight fans for the valiant, courageous, and otherworldly way in which they dished out and endured an insane amount of punishment.

In all three fights, Gatti and Ward fought each other tooth and nail from the opening to the closing bell. Recognizing the intensity of their classic battles, Ring Magazine awarded their first and third fights with Fight of the Year honors for 2002 and 2003, respectively. In fact, had their second fight not been contested in the same year, it might have earned Fight of the Year honors as well.

Ever the warrior, Gatti would of course continue to fight, as he won a WBC light welterweight belt in 2004 by destroying Leonard Dorin by second round KO.

Unfortunately, that victory led to his matchmaker's regrettable decision to pit Gatti against the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Junior in the summer of 2005. Hailed by most intelligent boxing observers as a “Pound-for-Pound Picasso” for his masterpiece performances, Mayweather was all wrong for Gatti from the get-go.

The lead-up to the Mayweather fight provided perhaps the perfect insight into what Gatti meant to his legion of adoring fans on the Boardwalk and beyond.

At the time, the promotional team of Main Events did an admirable propaganda job of convincing Gatti’s supporters that their man had a chance. They sold the fight with the angle that “if anybody could wipe the smirk off Pretty Boy's face, it was Gatti.”

Numerous proclamations came from Team Gatti attesting to his newly-revamped boxing style. The mentality in Gatti's camp was that Gatti's defense and ring generalship had improved greatly under the training of Buddy McGirt. In their mind, when those new improvements were added to Gatti's already potent left hook and durable chin, there was at least a chance at pulling off the upset.

Despite being a match of absurdly lopsided proportions, his title fight with Mayweather was hyped, perhaps rightly so, with several pre-fight storylines:

Good humble guy versus arrogant bad guy.

A hard-working everyman versus a boxing prodigy.

A veteran warrior versus loquacious showman.

A "Rocky" with a huge heart against a cutesy, unwilling scrapper with lightning hands.

The promotion apparently succeeded, as the fight created the kind of buzz usually reserved for heavyweights.

On fight night in Atlantic City, the celebrities were out in full force, as A-list stars such as Denzel Washington, Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Sean "Puffy" Combs, brushed shoulders with tycoon Donald Trump and athletes like Tom Brady .

Despite the fact that Mayweather was undefeated, five years younger, ranked as the top Pound-for-Pound fighter in the game, and a 4-1 betting favorite, few fans actually seemed to be counting out Gatti because of his iron will.

Of course the outcome was all too predictable for any unbiased observer, as Gatti absorbed a hellacious beating before his corner mercifully threw in the towel, ending the proceedings after round 6.

Early Years and Personal Life

Gatti grew up in Canada, the third of six children born to Italian immigrants Giovanni and Ida in working-class North Montreal.

Despite his throngs of adoring American fans, Arturo Gatti was a man of few words. Fluent in several languages, including Italian, French, and Spanish, Gatti remained famously self-conscious of his English, a language he learned only after moving to New Jersey in 1990.

In his later years, Gatti was often heard lamenting his lack of education to friends, saying it bothered him that he wasn’t better educated, and that he wished he had finished high school and gone to college.

But instead of that more conventional career path, Gatti decided to become a fighter. For Gatti, boxing was an obsession. His late father Giovanni was a huge fight fan and dreamed that one of his three boys would be a champion someday. Joe, the oldest, and Arturo, the middle son, showed the most interest.

Over the next few years, Arturo won the Canadian Golden Gloves championship a record six times. However, he knew that he eventually would have to travel south of the border to see his professional career flourish. So, after his big brother Joe had already made the move to New Jersey, Arturo quit high school and followed suit in 1990. Both spoke fluent Italian and French, but hardly any English.

Despite not knowing anybody in Jersey save for a few people in the boxing scene, the Gatti boys managed to do okay for themselves. Joe was a heavy-handed banger, and soon attracted the attention of Main Events, the Jersey-based promotional outfit with a stable of world-class boxers. Arturo, the tag-along little brother, began by getting fights on cards featuring Joe.

Gatti often said that the best day of his life was when he captured his first world title by beating Harris Patterson in Atlantic City. And the local Jersey fans were quick to share in the joy of his success.

Gatti's brawling style, rugged good looks, and natural charisma soon made him a fan favorite and one of New Jersey's adopted sons. Anytime “Thunder” Gatti was fighting on a Saturday night, the boardwalk became "Gatti-town," as thousands of fans would flock to the ocean city.

Universally regarded as the one fighter most responsible for putting Jersey boxing back on the map, former New Jersey state boxing commissioner Larry Hazzard has often said that Boardwalk Hall was "The House that Gatti Built."

In an ironic twist, it was Hazzard who was indirectly responsible for officially bringing Gatti’s career to an end, as he famously overruled referee Randy Neumann by stepping onto the ring apron and stopping Alfonso Gomez's one-sided beating of Gatti.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it was probably Gatti’s undying love for the sport that brought about the end of his career.

He did more than just fight one round or one fight too many.

Any casual fan could observe that Gatti simply took too much punishment in the ring. Far too much. The blows he absorbed in any one of his legendary wars were enough to permanently damage, or even kill an ordinary man.

Through it all, Gatti never quit fighting, even when it was clear that it was a lost cause. Two examples of that spirit were seen in his brutally lopsided defeats to two of the best boxers of his era - Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Even in the bouts that he won, Gatti inevitably took a beating. It was what his fans expected of him, and invariably, it was what he did.

In the end, while Gatti's talent in the ring certainly didn’t approach that of Mayweather or De La Hoya, one could make the claim that he was more loved by the "blood and guts" crowd than either of these more accomplished fighters.

Ironically, after moving to New Jersey, Gatti's career unfolded during a time when boxing was absolutely flourishing in Montreal. Montreal-based fighters such as Jean Pascal, Adrian Diaconu, Joachim Alcine, Hermann Ngoudjo, Lucian Bute, and MMA star Georges St. Pierre all have headlined cards at various Montreal venues.

But, unlike those names, Gatti never did fully affiliate himself with his hometown. As a star in the professional ranks, he spent nearly all of his pro career fighting big bouts in Atlantic City, where he was the most popular boxer to grace the area since Iron Mike Tyson.

The ultimate hard-working, thin-skinned bleeder, Gatti achieved a cult-like following of fans and near folk-hero status not because of his talent, speed, or power, but because of his incredible ability to take a savage beating and keep on fighting. His determination in the face of adversity made him a fan favorite, and made so many of his fights legendary.

Because of that willingness to battle, Gatti probably never got enough credit for his boxing skills.

At one point, he did possess decent hand speed and good foot speed. And there was always that explosive left hook, capable of changing or ending a bout at any time. Had he ever bothered to actually listen and learn more defense from one of his trainers earlier in his career, he might have been more successful in the ring - and preserved more brain cells. But that was never Arturo Gatti’s style.

Instead, Gatti stuck to his “Blood and Guts” mentality, and because of that commitment, he will be forever missed by boxing fans across the world.

What a sad and ironic obituary for such a courageous warrior. The end came not in the ring, or from pugilistic dementia or some other boxing-related health concern, but apparently at the hands of his diminutive, yet deeply disturbed wife.

It still seems like a cruel joke, or just a tasteless rumor: Boxing’s consummate warrior, strangled to death with the strap of a woman's purse.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for


  1. RIP Mr. Gatti, you will be missed. I didn't know bout his multiple language talents, that's an interesting thing. The fights with Ward were the bomb. I don't care if they were club fighters, it was great action. straight up.

  2. I only wish that Gatti and Hatton could have fought each other in their primes. That would have been a war. The writer did a proper job of capturing the spirit of this warrior.


We encourage all intelligent, passionate comments. Please refrain from any ignorant, racist, or offensive rants.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...