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Home Boxing Arturo "THUNDER" Gatti - Gone But Never Forgotten
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Arturo "THUNDER" Gatti - Gone But Never Forgotten

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On May 18, 2002 I was in a gymnasium at my Senior Prom in rural Virginia , but my mind was about 800 miles away. They had already dubbed the fight “The Fight of The Century,” despite being only two years into the new century, and not to mention the match hadn’t even taken place yet. Luckily for me, my date, who I had been dating for over two years, knew I wanted to watch the fight, and let me off the hook. At a time when most everyone at the prom was looking forward to partying late into the night, I was looking forward to seeing two guys potentially knock each others’ heads off. To this day, Gatti-Ward 1 is20the best fight I’ve ever seen and cemented my position as a lifelong boxing fan.

I often say it’s the best decision I ever made. The girl subsequently broke up with me, married someone else, leaving me to find a woman, now my wife, who truly understands me. In a time when I was getting ready to graduate from high school, and heard of all the people getting ready to go off and do big and great things it was refreshing to see two fighters, who were both labeled “journeyman” fighters, put everything on the line with nothing in return but the fact that they gave it their all. There was no title or title shots on the line, the money wasn’t great, and they both were seemingly at the end of their careers. Mickey Ward had 11 losses on his record at 36 years old and had announced that if he lost this fight, then his career was over. Arturo Gatti’s position at the time wasn’t much better. He was just one fight removed from having lost to Oscar De La Hoya, in a fight that was considered a last goodbye for a man who had already put on so many other exciting fights. Funny thing happened that night though.

There are not many fights in history wh ere you can say the words “round nine,” and boxing fans will know exactly what you are talking about. Ward dropped Gatti with a body shot seconds into the round. The pain on Gatti’s face makes me cringe to this day, but he got up and won the next minute of the round. Then Ward landed another body shot that resulted in a series of unanswered punches. Ninety nine percent of referees would have stopped the fight at that point but not Frank Cappuccino. No, he had seen Gatti in that position before, and gave him the benefit of the doubt. Gatti would make it to the end of the round, and the end of the fight, and the two would go on to fight two more times in what has been called the best trilogy in the history of boxing.

For the last ten rounds, Gatti-Ward III, I was lucky enough to be there. At that point in my life I had about 200 dollars to my name, and I spent most of that buying a ticket and driving 7 hours to Atlantic City . This was also one of the better decisions of my life. If that would have been the first fight between the two it would have been considered an all-time classic, but because of the first fight, it was merely just a “good fight.” There are a few moments in boxing I will always remember. Top of that list is w hen George Foreman briefly looked up to the heavens after knocking out Michael Moorer, and when Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward hugged in the center of the ring. Ward would go on to retire, while Gatti would go on to complete the last-act of his storybook career.

The final chapter of Gatti’s boxing career came on July 14, 2007. Gatti had been knocked out in nine by Carlos Baldomir a year before in his bid to win the WBC welterweight title. Many thought his career was officially over then, but I always had a feeling he’d come back for one last fight. His opponent two years ago was Alfonso Gomez, from the reality boxing show “The Contender.” I knew in my heart that this might be the last time Gatti ever fought, so I put in for my press credentials to cover this fight. In one of those “moments in times” that you know you’ll always remember when it happens, I remember thinking how old Gatti looked when he came down the aisle that night. I of course wanted him to find a way to beat Gomez and get on the microphone and tell his adoring fans of Atlantic City that it’s been a great ride but he’s retiring. Instead he was stopped in seven rounds and made a beeline to the emergency room after suffering multiple facial injuries.

=0 AIt’s a sad ending in theory, but it was also so fitting. If you ever want to see the definition of a man “going out on his shield,” that was it. No matter how much the skills faded, the skin bled, and the chin gave out on him, he never stopped giving it his all. Of course every young boxer should watch the trilogy with Ward, but they should also watch his final fight with Gomez. It’s easy to feel on top of the world when everything is going well, but to continue to try your best when everything is stacked against you is an equally important lesson.

Shortly after the Gomez fight he announced his retirement and the boxing internet forums went crazy with the question if he’s a Hall of Famer. According to the website of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, their mission is “to honor and preserve boxing’s rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of those who excelled and provide an educational experiences for our many visitors. “ Nobody epitomizes boxing’s rich heritage more than Gatti. A Canadian-Italian, who became the most popular television fighter in the history of American boxing, is a pretty outstanding heritage. He won two world titles, but more importantly owns the title of the toughest man to ever enter the ring, and that’s quite the achievement. Finally, Gatti can supply many educational experiences to their many visitors. He snatched victory from the jaws of defeat time and time again.
 
He fought through blood and pain that is unimaginable to 99 percent of the world’s population, and he did it all with a pride and humbleness that was unmatched. If those are indeed the requirements to enter the boxing hall of fame then I not only look forward to when Gatti is enshrined into the Hall of Fame, but also when they open the Arturo Gatti wing of the Hall of Fame.

A lot of times when someone is taken from us prematurely, stories come up to embellish the history of the person. What can be said to improve on the legend of Arturo “Thunder” Gatti? That defies a true legend, not a manufactured one. Nothing about Gatti was manufactured. What you saw is what you got, and what we will always miss.

Goodbye, Champ

Robert Jones
www.convictedartist.com

photo by Reuters

 

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