The CBZ Newswire

A Tribute to ‘Thunder’, the Late Arturo Gatti

by on Jul.17, 2009, under Boxing News

By Jason Keidel

The bewildering array of celebrity deaths includes a man who has never been in a movie. But he is the closest clone to a movie icon we might ever see.

Arturo Gatti, the welterweight rendition of Rocky Balboa, died in a hotel room in Brazil, on a bed, a victim of murder. He was 37.

White, Italian, and fearless, he was the rarest of athletes who was hailed as much in his losses as his triumphs. If you stood with your back to the ring and just listened to the crowd, you would think he won every time. Often we saw a dizzy Gatti giving slurred answers in post-fight interviews to booming chants of his name.

Born in Italy, raised in Canada, he became a son of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and moved to Jersey City, where he reflected the blue-collar ethic of his fans.

Gatti was not hailed for his boxing genius, as he didn’t have any. What he had was a sense of theater, balls of granite, and the embodiment of a vital life exercise: never stay down. How many of us have been knocked down in our lives? We wrestle with fury and self-pity, wondering if effort is worthwhile. He showed us that it is.

Because boxers fight boxers of equal weight, it’s often overlooked that many of them are small men. Fighting mostly between 130 and 140lbs. Gatti was a small man of colossal courage. Like his cinematic counterpart played by Sylvester Stallone, he was defenseless, often dropping his hands near his belt. Indeed, he didn’t attract slugfests as much as he seemed to welcome them. It’s been inaccurately reported that he had a great chin. What he really had was an unshakable will that led him to think he could win as long as he had a pulse.

We can recount the classics with Ivan Robinson and Mickey Ward, but in Gatti’s case the opponent was incidental. When facing men of superior talent (De La Hoya, Mayweather, etc.) we watched with one eye open, knowing our boy was going down, hoping he took just enough punches to lose and live to fight in a few months.

He retired recently, after falling for the final time to a contestant from “The Contender.” His record was 40-9, a pedestrian record on the surface. A boxer slugging well past his prime is something we expect. It is the ancestral refrain of all who put on gloves and are any good at it. But we would like them (if not expect them) to live to a reasonably old age.

It seems he was strangled by his wife, who allegedly used the string of her purse to choke the life from a man who refused to die.

It is a sad irony that befalls some athletes and many boxers. Rocky Marciano, unbeaten in the ring, died in a plane crash. Salvador Sanchez, perhaps the greatest boxer never known, drove his Porsche off a cliff when he was 23. Muhammad Ali, while still alive, is a trembling shell robbed of his golden tongue.

Arturo Gatti was killed by his wife, Steve McNair by his mistress, and (perhaps) Michael Jackson by his doctor – leaving us to arrange the strange context.

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