By no means was he the most skilled pugilist to lace up the gloves. There were scores with faster hands, swifter feet, better hand eye coordination. Defense was never his forte. In many bouts, there was a distinct absence of science displayed by the man, as he responded to an absorbed blow like a bull goaded by a runner in Pamplona. But Arturo Gatti exemplified the grit, and the neccessary stubborness in the face of adversity, along with an ample helping of raw talent, which makes a boxer an all-time great.
The Canadian-born boxer, who retired from the ring in 2007, was found dead in a hotel room in Brazil on Saturday morning. Gatti was 37 years old. He was on a second honeymoon vacation with his wife, and was found bloodied, and unconscious in his underwear. Foul play is suspected.
There will be no more comebacks for a man who made a career of the art of the comeback; Gatti's final record will stand at 40-9, with 31 KOs, and about a thousand instances when he wowed fight fans with a brand of courage that the vast majority of society could only marvel at. His type of resilience was and is exceedingly rare, and fight fans were drawn to the battler because they could identify with, and aspire to, his character. Life getting you down? No job, no money, no prospects for either? What would Gatti do? He'd keep on swinging to the bitter end, would the former super featherweight and junior welterweight champion, and would go out on his shield, for sure. The man wasn't ever looking for a soft spot to fall on the canvas, in his sixteen-year pro career. He didn't have a hint of the dog in him. He'd only mutter 'No Mas' during training, when he needed to cut that last five pounds. “I love to bleed, love it,” he once said. “People at ringside bring umbrellas to my bouts so they won't get splashed.” And they left the better for it, beyond perhaps having to toss out a light-colored top if they were in the front row, and got splashed. They left knowing that they saw a trait exemplified which would serve them well, if incorporated into their own life: they saw fortitude in excess, a magnificent display worth far more than they'd ponied up at the box office.
Many a man, once he reaches a certain age, starts to ponder his imminent mortality, and begins to contemplate the wake he will leave once his ship sails into the horizon, and beyond. Who am I? Who will remember me? Gatti can rest easy, TSS is certain, with the knowledge that as long as there is a YouTube, and boxing fans, plenty of folks will remember “Thunder,” who thrilled us with his bucket o' blood specials with rival Micky Ward, three tradefests that took place in 2002 and 2003. Gatti went 2-1 against Ward, but there were many other Gatti fights that will not exit the memory banks of the fans who saw him bloodied, battered, nearly blind, but still refusing to take no for an answer. Time and again, he'd find himself without the benefit of sight, basically, cheated again by the enswell, and yet he seemed alllergic to the words, “I quit.”
There may be some who will look at his record, and cite his nine losses, and say that he doesn't deserve a place in Canastota. Not me, not no way, not no how. Gatti's heart loomed as large as any man gracing the Hall of Fame currently, and he always strived to deliver the fans a thrilling show.
Yes, Arturo had a Hall of Fame heart, and Hall of Fame guts, and that is enough for me. Rest in peace, Thunder, we will treasure the memories you left us.