An icon can be defined as a symbol that is universally recognized to be representative of something. The late Arturo “Thunder” Gatti 40-9 (31) was the epitome of a boxing icon, as he was a true representation of pugilism in every way. He had substance, a ton of heart and the kind of will that provided fans across the globe with entertaining fights every time he laced up the gloves. Gatti was and always will be a legend among boxing circles there is no question of that. Arturo fought with brute determination and bore his heart to the masses through the brutal and at times inconceivable to the rest of us type of punishment that he was willing to take in the ring as a professional prizefighter every time he fought. Boxing was Gatti’s life and we should all be extremely grateful to have lived in the era of one Arturo Gatti. His fights were memorable, his wars epic, and he had a genuine charisma and charm about him outside of the ropes that belied the inner essence of his warrior mentality inside of them. On June 9th the IBHOF will rightfully honor Arturo Gatti’s memory by entering his name alongside those who came before him and fought with as much bravery and spirit as he did in life.
Controversy has shrouded Gatti’s IBHOF nod recently as there are those out there who feel that Arturo doesn’t deserve such recognition or praise. Some note a numbers game, where they contend that his nine losses just don’t add up to greatness in their minds. Greatness comes in several forms and losses aren’t always an indicator of a lack of worth when looking at a boxer’s resume or skill set. His defeats came at the hands of solid fighters and his willingness to step into the ring against any opponent and try his luck is a testament to that. Courage did not come in short supply for the fighter who eventually hung up his gloves in the Garden State and the mere fact that he was willing to test his mettle against some of the best proves this point to be true. Others would rate him a “C” type fighter, someone who is a journeyman at best and who proved to be an easy target for some. Valor cannot and should not be graded among the cowards who do not do the fighting in the ring but chose to judge it safely from afar. Styles make fights and Gatti’s was something to behold.
His blockbuster trilogy with “Irish” Micky Ward 38-13 (27) transported boxing fans into an old school time warp where fighters beat the hell out of one another and emptied their tanks until there were just fumes left. Ward was another boxer who wasn’t afraid to face who was in front of him and grinded out hard fought victories when the chips were down and the odds were stacked against him so high he couldn’t see over them. Both men brought out the best in one another when they went to war in Connecticut in 2002 and 2003 and became good friends because of their battles. Much like Ali and Frazier and Robinson and LaMotta, Gatti and Ward engaged in brutal warfare for our entertainment and did a dance of violence that was as vicious and unforgiving as it was nostalgic and beautiful in retrospect. They provided a fistic medium with the damage done and gave fans what they wanted at the extensive cost of their own health and well-being to provide the rest of us with sensational fights. And what fights they were.
Among all the boxers out there, for this writer Arturo Gatti has always been my hands down favorite bar none. I sat with nervous anticipation when he fought Oscar “Golden Boy” De La Hoya 39-6 (30) back in 2001, hoping he could land one of those enormous left hooks that had dropped opponents in the past. We all knew De La Hoya was physically too big at the time yet the hope remained. When he stepped onto the ring apron against Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. 44-0 (26) in 2005, that same hope resided in my chest, wondering if Arturo could pull it off and shock us all by dethroning an unbeatable Floyd. It didn’t happen yet Gatti refused to give up until the plug was pulled in the sixth round. Arturo Gatti was heart personified. He never made excuses for his choices in the squared circle and he captivated us all whether he won or lost and carried with him a true sense of humility that was unexpected of someone who was so determined and headstrong when fighting. The way he fought, and not numbers on a paper, is what makes him great and the way he gave it his all every single time he threw a punch is why he deserves to be recognized by the IBHOF.
There are those out there who may still not have liked his style in the ring. You’ll say he took too much punishment; he abandoned the fundamentals and went headfirst into the fog. Maybe he did take too much punishment but the beauty in that was that he did it because of the size of his heart and not his checkbook. He fought to fight damn it and gave a voice to those who maybe didn’t think they had one, someone to look up to who understood what struggle and hardship was really all about as he fought those struggles on center stage for us to witness. Arturo Gatti was blue collar through and through and he represented to real boxing fans what boxing was all about. He did his job to the best of his ability and gave his all until the bitter end. If the IBHOF can induct non-participants and observers into their fold then they sure as hell can tip their hat to “Thunder”. It’s only right. Here’s to you brave warrior, as your fighting spirit is missed by all yet forgotten by none. May you rest in peace always Arturo, you’re finally home people’s Champion. You’re finally home.