Arturo Gatti, who trained at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn and became a star on the Boardwalk in New Jersey while winning acclaim as one of the most compelling television fighters of the modern era for his rough-and-tumble style, was found dead Saturday July 11th in Brazil.
Gatti, 37, was on his second honeymoon with his wife, Amanda, and their 10-month-old baby when his blood-spattered body was discovered in a seaside resort in Porto de Galinhas, according to media reports. A police investigation was ongoing and foul play is suspected. Gatti was found to have blood stains on the back of his head and neck around 6 a.m. Saturday morning, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Co.
A police spokeswoman said "there were no bullet or stab wounds on his body, but police did find blood stains on the floor." His death comes on the heels of another boxing legend, Alexis Arguello, who won titles in three weight classes and died on July 1 from an allegedly self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in Nicaragua.
Gatti (40-9, 31 knockouts) was raised in Montreal, but became a star in Atlantic City, where he won his first title, at junior welterweight, by beating Tracy Harris Patterson in 1995, then went on to have some of his most memorable fights by the Boardwalk. He continued to live in Jersey City after retiring - his last fight was a seventh-round TKO at the hands of Alfonso Gomez on July 14, 2007, in Atlantic City.
Gatti, nicknamed "Thunder," started his professional career in 1991 and won world championships in two different weight classes, at 130 pounds and 140 pounds. Gatti was best known for his three fights with Micky Ward in 2002 and 2003 - the first in Uncasville, Conn., the final two in Atlantic City. Both fighters were known for their all-action style and matching them together provided some of the most intense boxing action of the decade. Gatti won the series 2-1, all on brutal 10-round decisions, and the two fighters grew close outside the ring, often golfing together.
"He was a great guy. He enjoyed life," Ward said when reached at his home in Lowell, Mass. "People don't understand how two guys who beat the heck out of each other could become friends, but that's what happened. He was the heart and soul of boxing. I'm going to miss him." Gatti was never quite the same after his battles with Ward - although he won his next two fights, to capture and retain the WBC junior welterweight title against Gianluca Branco and Leonard Dorin, he was TKO'd by Floyd Mayweather Jr. on June 25, 2005, and lost to Carlos Baldomir on a ninth-round TKO with the welterweight title on the line in 2006, his second-to-last fight.
Gatti also lost to Oscar De La Hoya in 2001, but it was his style and spirit that the boxing world noted more than his record. "I don't know if there's such thing as a 20-count, but their should be a 20-count for these two great warriors (Gatti and Arguello)," said Gary Shaw, former COO of Main Events. "Nobody ever said he was the greatest fighter in the world but they did say he was the most exciting. He was just a joy to watch."
Gatti was scheduled to testify in a trial in New York this week in a lawsuit filed against the New York State Athletic Commission by former opponent Joey Gamache, who was knocked out by Gatti in 2000. Gamache never fought again. "I feel so sad right now," Gamache said, reached at his home in Manhattan. "He did so much for boxing. I don't blame him for anything that happened. He was a fighter, just doing his job."
Carl Moretti, who also worked with Gatti at Main Events, said that Gatti and his wife Amanda, who is from Brazil, had separated but had recently gotten back together and were celebrating a second honeymoon. Moretti said Gatti's sister was scheduled to get married Saturday in Florida, deepening the tragedy even further. "He was happy," Moretti said.
Gatti's ability to fight through adversity was legendary and earned him the nickname the "Human Highlight Film" from former HBO executive Lou DiBella, who put together several of his fights. "He had that 'it' factor," DiBella said. "He had all of those external things you need to become a star: he tasted his own blood, fought through a shut eye. He was a warrior. People loved him."