Sunday, July 12, 2009

Arturo Gatti Is Dead? Who's That?

There was a time in my life when I followed professional boxing pretty closely. Guys like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman were in their primes in those days. Of course, those guys were in the heavyweight division. I didn't pay much attention to the lower weight divisions.

That didn't change much as I got older.

So when I heard — over and over — today that a retired fighter named Arturo Gatti was dead, I couldn't place the name.

I've done a little research this afternoon, and apparently Gatti, whose weight must have been in the 130–pound range (think Barney Fife) through most of his career, fought in 49 fights between 1991 and 2007. He won 40 of them, 31 by knockout.

Four of his fights were dubbed "fight of the year" by Ring Magazine, and two of those fights, in 2002 and 2003, were against Micky Ward. Ward won the first fight, then there apparently was a rematch, which was won by Gatti. Their third fight — and I have attached a video clip from that fight to this post — sounds like it was pretty dramatic. Gatti broke his right hand in the fourth round, but, in spite of fighting pretty much one–handed for several rounds, came back to win the bout.

Entertaining stuff. No wonder he appeared on HBO nearly two dozen times in his career.

And perhaps, as is being suggested, he really was a Canadian legend.

Well, I don't mean to be flippant. The man was only 37, after all. Too young to die — and, apparently, his wife, Amanda Carina Barbosa Rodrigues, is being detained by Brazilian authorities. It appears that she is suspected of strangling him.

But I never heard of him. That doesn't mean he wasn't talented. The clips I've seen this afternoon show an aggressive fighter. But if someone asked me to compare the Ali–Frazier trilogy to the Gatti–Ward trilogy, I'm sorry, but it's no contest.

In my mind, Ali–Frazier will always be one of the classic, legendary rivalries in sports — the standard against which all other boxing rivalries will be judged.

Which reminds me of a wonderful moment from "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.

Back in the days when he was still a professional fighter, Ali was a guest on the show. During his conversation with Carson, somehow it came up that Carson had been a boxer when he was in the Navy. Ali observed that Carson "must have been pretty good" because he didn't see any marks or scars on Carson's face.

Carson replied that he couldn't see any marks on Ali's face, either.

Ali smiled and said, "Well, I am pretty good!"

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