“Slugfest” is one of the most popular words happy fight fans use for an action-packed bout, rife with give and take between a pair of evenly matched fighters. And no boxer of the modern era has given his adoring fans more entertaining slugfests than master slugger, Arturo “Thunder” Gatti.
Known as “the human highlight reel”, Gatti participated in The Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year four separate times; once against Gabriel Ruelas, once in the first of two fights against Ivan Robinson, and twice in his legendary trilogy (the first and third fights) against “Irish” Mickey Ward. Though he won world championships in the super featherweight, light welterweight, and welterweight divisions, he is better loved and remembered for his stunning entertainment talents than for his skills and prowess as a boxer. Gatti was a gladiator who reminded us why the classic term for the craft is “prizefighting”.
The three fights with Ward are widely considered one of the most exciting rivalries in boxing history. Knocked down in Round 9 of the first fight, Gatti lost a majority decision, only to come back with victories in the rematch and the rubber match. Later became his trainer and a dear friend.
After losing three of his last four fights, Gatti read the writing on the wall and hung up the gloves at his beloved Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, quipping “I’ll be back… as a spectator.” But, sadly, he did not enjoy his retirement long. Less than two years later, Gatti was found dead in his hotel room at a resort in Brazil. Though the authorities originally – and hastily – ruled his death a suicide, the official conclusion is that it was homicide. While Gatti’s wife is widely suspected of murder, she was never charged and the mystery of the Italian-Canadian warrior’s tragic end has never been solved.
In 2013, four years after his death, one of Gatti’s lifelong dreams was realized. In his first year of eligibility, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.