Before boxers became movie stars and before fighters were more concerned with avoiding punishment than inflicting it on their opponent, their was Arturo Gatti, a 5-7 human cyclone who regularly thrust his skull in harms way, who broke his hand five times in his career and who once said that he "liked to bleed." Gatti, who was found dead in a Brazil hotel room on Saturday, was a warrior's warrior, a relentless puncher who was never happier than when he was standing toe-to-toe with an opponent -- any opponent -- and trading haymakers.
His signature moments came in an epic trilogy of fights with
"You can kill him and kill him and kill him," Ward once said. "But he'll just get back up and get back up and get back up."
It's unfortunate that many people will remember Gatti as the shell of the fighter who limped his way to two lopsided defeats at the end of his career; the first to welterweight champion
His peers admired him too, as several attested to in a 2004 Sports Illustrated story:
He reminds me of me," said former middleweight champ
"He's a gutsy fighter of action who thinks his way through a match in a way you don't see anymore," said
"He slugs it out as if he's in a barroom: Whatever's in front of him, he pounds down," said former light heavyweight champ
In a few years, Gatti's name will begin to fade. His record (40-9) is far from exceptional and the next generation of boxing fans will only be able to measure the greatness of Gatti if they choose to dig a little deeper. Here's hoping they do; they will surely find something special.