I am crushed. Cold. Stunned. Hurt.
Thunder is gone.
SAO PAULO — Police in Brazil say former boxing champion Arturo Gatti has been found dead in a hotel room in the northeastern state of Pernambuco.
Police investigator Edislon Alves told The Associated Press that the body of the former junior welterweight champ was discovered Saturday morning in the posh seaside resort of Porto de Galinhas, where he arrived on Friday with his wife and 1-year-old son.
Alves said police were investigating. It was unclear how the 37-year-old Canadian died.
A spokeswoman for the public safety department said Gatti’s wife and son were unhurt.
“There were no bullet or stab wounds on his body, but police did find blood stains on the floor,” the spokeswoman said.
Gatti (40-9, 31 KOs) was best known for his all-action style, which was epitomized in his classic trilogy with Micky Ward in 2002 and 2003.
It’s why Gatti was a fixture at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., where he drew huge crowds and fought many times, including the final nine fights of his career.
In his first fight after the Ward trilogy — which Gatti won 2-1 — he captured a world title in his second division, outpointing Gianluca Branco for the vacant WBC junior welterweight title.
Apparently foul play is suspected, and I’m sure the details will come out soon enough.
But for now, I’m as shaken as I can be. I’ve always liked boxing — I can remember renting the video of the Hagler/Leonard fight when I was a kid — but I fell back in love with the sport because of Gatti. His incredible trilogy with Irish Micky Ward, which Gatti won 2-1, brought me all the way back.
Gatti/Ward 1 is the most memorable of all of them, especially round 9 (the commentary of Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Manny Steward is INCREDIBLE), and though Gatti lost that fight, the respect and admiration the two men had for each other afterwards — doing the postfight, in-ring interview together and falling over themselves with compliments for the other — was exactly what every fan looks for, longs for, in sports. Gatti won the third fight despite breaking his right hand early in the fight, which was emblematic of most of his fights. Gatti was always willing to take two shots to land one, and his career was one that included improbable comeback after improbable comeback.
Gatti retired with diminishing skills in 2007, and I was always hopeful that he’d be able to stay away from the ring and not endure any more punishment.
Who knew that, in the end, he was always safer in the squared circle?