July 11, 2014

The Day Arturo Gatti Died

Boxing's Ultimate Blood & Guts Warrior
JULY 11, 2009 was a day like any other but for fight fans and those close to boxing legend Arturo "Thunder" Gatti, a day unlike any other. Exactly five years ago today, Gatti died at the age of 37 while vacationing with wife Amanda in Brazil. Retired for two years and very much out of the boxing limelight, Gatti was presumably off living the life many of us hoped he would be able to live after a brutal 2007 beating at the hands of "Contender" runner-up Alfonso Gomez. As sad as that final fight was, the final two years in Arturo's life were by some accounts even more tragic. Much mystery and controversy still surrounds the day Arturo died.

Did he take his own life as reported? Was he killed? Many unanswered questions still remain yet somehow, someway, his passing was on my mind that day even before I got the news that Gatti was actually gone.

Let me try to explain by telling the story.

The Saturday morning of July 11 was a typical sunny and bright summer day in the Boston area. Over morning coffee, I was flipping through some old boxing magazines from my collection. One issue in particular stood out. That was the October 1990 issue of The RING commemorating the passing of Rocky Graziano. "Thanks for the Memories" proclaimed the faded cover. As I read that headline and looked at the old fashioned illustrations of Graziano in action, I began to think about the obvious comparisons between Graziano and Gatti as fighters. Then for some reason it occurred to me that someday in the future I would surely hold a similar magazine in my hands commemorating the passing of MY generation's Rocky Graziano, Arturo Gatti.

Little did I realize just how soon I would have that fateful magazine in my hands.

Approximately three weeks later I was holding it.
The Memory Remains

Some time after lunch on the day Arturo died, an old hometown friend from Brockton emailed and broke the news of Gatti's death to me. I immediately recalled thinking about Gatti and Graziano while looking at that Ring Magazine over coffee that morning and it seemed like too much of a coincidence. Still, I was sure that when I pondered his death earlier that day, I had no way to know that Arturo may have already been dead, or dying. The shock of a more tangible reality took over and I began to share with people the strange premonition I experienced earlier in the day.

Most people thought it was crazy and I'm not sure everyone believed me but it's the truth, and I stand behind it as such. On the day Arturo died, I seemed to be aware of it before being told of it and I don't fully understand why. Could it be that we receive and communicate information in ways we don't fully understand? Maybe it really was just a strange coincidence. Or perhaps the giant void suddenly left behind by Gatti's passing was just too big not to notice immediately. In any case, a true boxing legend passed away that day and I think it's fair to say we're all still in grief, even five years later.

Arturo Gatti was the most spectacularly exciting boxer of his generation. With his incredible heart and determination, Arturo far exceeded his own limited skillset and by doing so joined in the elite company of boxing legends like Rocky Graziano. In June 2013, Gatti was inducted on the first ballot into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canstota, New York. Boxing's ultimate blood and guts warrior has now been reborn and made immortal.

Thanks for the memories Arturo.

Written & Experienced by Jeffrey Freeman