Death Take My Hand: Alexis Arguello, Arturo Gatti and Vernon Forest
By John Raspanti, (Aug 5, 2009)  
Death is reality.
Death is everywhere.
Death is…looming.

In Body and Soul, a brilliant noir-ish film from 1947, Charlie Davis portrayed by the great John Garfield and Roberts played by Lloyd Gough have the following exchange…

Charlie Davis: Get yourself a new boy. I retire. Roberts: What makes you think you can get away with this? Charlie Davis: What are you gonna do? Kill me? Everybody dies

Everybody dies, so true and in a lot of ways profound. The clock is ticking and we all know it. We read about death all the time, we feel sadness but we move on. We get up and go to work and mumble to ourselves “that’s life”.

That is until one of our heroes dies.

It’s always shocking when an athlete passes away. I think we forget that there human too, we watch them and cheer and groan and feel sad when they fail. As kids we worship and dream of emulating there exploits, as we grow older we still watch in awe. There gods plains and simple. They make a boat load of money, they live like royalty, they marry beautiful woman.

There not supposed to end up being victims.

But like every human being tragedy can lurk nearby.

Alexis Arguello was a three time champion, a graceful executioner and gentlemen of the highest degree. He had his dark side and many demons but it appeared he was past all that until we heard he had shot himself in the chest. Personally I always found the story suspicious; men don’t usually shoot themselves in the chest and especially men like Arguello. But alas this appears to be the accepted story.

Arturo Gatti was all heart, blood and glory. ‘Thunder’ would crash down on his opponent and keep throwing punches until he was beyond spent. The man never fought a boring fight in his life, the boxing crowd loved him but outside the ring he couldn’t find the love to sustain any happiness. Domestic tranquility was something unachievable for the champ.

Vernon Forrest was a rare practitioner of the ‘sweet science’. Kind and generous and always willing to give his time for charity, he was shot after chasing a couple of creeps who had robbed him. Why had he chased them? He could have just called the police, but his pride and his courage overrode his common sense.

Now he’s in the ground, dead at 38 years old, far too young and way beyond senseless.

I feel sad for there families, for them and for us. Boxing is a violent sport and most of us experience some kind of violence in our lives. A fistfight as a kid or an automobile accident as adult, there’s always a chance something might happen. All of this pales in comparison to a boxer’s life. The brutality swarms them in every round and every fight and then either ends in victory or defeat. How ironic that another sort of violence ended the lives of these three.

Things have changed so much in my fifty years on this earth. My love of sports and especially boxing will never change. But this past month of ‘death’ has left me dumbfounded, stunned and worried. I want it to end, but will it?

The one thing I do know is this…they deserved better…and that’s a fact.

Death and life were not
Till man made up the whole
Made lock, stock, and barrel
Out of his bitter soul.
--WB Yeats

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