Ten years have passed since, following an incident that remains shrouded in mystery, Arturo Gatti, perhaps the most entertaining fighter of his generation, was pronounced dead at the age of 37 while visiting Porto de Galinhas, Brazil with his wife Amanda Rodrigues and their young son, Arturo Jnr. The then-23-year-old Rodrigues was arrested, having been accused of strangling him with her purse strap while he was drunk and asleep, owing to strangulation marks found on Gatti’s neck and the blood-stained purse strap discovered at the scene of his death.
Local police instead swiftly concluded that he had hanged himself in a stairwell – a conclusion Rodrigues supports – but a decade later many still refused to believe that the Italian-Canadian, Hall of Fame inductee would have taken his own life. A decade on from the premature loss of an individual who shaped a remarkably memorable era and, against Micky Ward, was involved in three of the finest fights of all time, Boxing News spoke to Gatti’s then-manager Pat Lynch, his older sister Anna-Maria and his one-time rival Ward to revisit the life and times of the unforgettably fearless fighter with the irrepressible heart, the iconic ringwalk and the Spaghetti Western stare.
Where would Arturo be today if he was still here?
Pat Lynch: He’d definitely be dabbling in boxing. He talked about doing some local shows, or working in the gym with kids, or working as a commentator.
Micky Ward: Jersey or Florida or somewhere. It seems like yesterday I was with him; it doesn’t feel like 10 years ago. I’m not sure he could have been a trainer though – he was too hot-headed. He wasn’t big into patience. He’d probably help kids, but I don’t think he’d have been a full-time trainer.
Anna-Maria Gatti: He’d be home in Canada. He wouldn’t be fighting. He was already starting to build condos in Montreal, and his plan was to build more, and be a property developer.
How often do you think about him?
PL: Every day. There’s still posters and pictures of him all over my home and my office, which I’ve never taken down. You think of a funny story. We spent most holidays together. He’d spent Christmas with my children; they called him ‘Uncle Arturo’; he was an usher at my wedding, the godfather to my daughter.
MW: A lot. Not every day, but sometimes a lot.
AMG: Not every second, but every day. In the morning when I get up and have my coffee, and at night when I finish a 12-hour shift I have a little glass of wine and I think of him. I’m a server in a diner, so a lot of people know where I come from and always talk about him.
How much of a loss is he to the sport today? Did he have any idea how loved he was?
PL: It’s incredible. I was in California for the [Vasyl] Lomachenko-[Anthony] Crolla fight and for the whole weekend I was just amazed at how many people approached me, still talking about him, the fights with Micky Ward and how great they were, and the way he handled himself. Everywhere he went people showed him that love. I really think he [knew].
MW: I don’t think [he knew]. I think he knew he was loved, but he probably didn’t know how much people loved him.
AMG: I hope he did; I’m sure he knew inside that he was loved. His family loved him; his friends loved him.
There were suggestions he was struggling with retirement. Do you think he’d have attempted a comeback?
PL: I don’t think so. When he first retired he did an interview, and he phoned me right away and said ‘Listen, you’re going to hear something but I want you to know it was taken out of context. I would never go back into the ring without you’, and I said, ‘Woah, you’re never going back’. I received a call from someone in Canada looking to pay a lot to get him back and I said ‘It’s not happening’ and would have fought to stop it.
MW: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think Pat Lynch would have let him. He’d probably have been tempted, but I wouldn’t have told him to go through with it.
AMG: No, I don’t think so. But I cannot say he definitely wouldn’t, because you never know if promoters have an offer. He was a young 37, not a beat-up 37.
‘He had the biggest heart in the world’Pat Lynch
How much of a personal loss is he to you?
PL: It was a huge loss to me, my family and my children. When you lose part of your family like that it hurts; it’s an open wound that’s never going to heal.
MW: We had a unique relationship, more than just boxing. It was outside of the ring as well, so it was hard. We didn’t get to hang out all that much, because he passed, but it was good that we did. We’d be doing a lot of things together now. He was a great guy who gave his all outside and inside the ring.
AMG: You know when they say a mother never forgets how it feels to lose a kid? My brother was like my son. When I think of him, I think of the day he first walked, because I was always with him. How much everyone loved him, the way he fought – that’s what made him special.
Have you ever met anyone else like him, either as a fighter or human?
PL: No. We became so close that I was kind of spoilt. There were great guys, don’t get me wrong – Glenn Tapia and others I could mention – but Arturo was just something special. He had the biggest heart in the world; he’s a world champion, a baby sitter’s cancelled, and he’d say ‘I’ll come down and watch the kids so you can go out to dinner’. That’s the person he was.
MW: I’ve met similar people but I was closer to him, we just had that bond, you know? He was a special guy – guys like him are few and far between.
AMG: The personality traits Arturo had are in me. The only other person I see like Arturo is his [eldest of two children] daughter Sophia; the way she acts and she has the same good heart. I always tell her she’s like her father.
What is your favourite memory of him?
PL: The joy on his face when his daughter was born, because I always knew he’d be a great dad. Another dream came true when he became world champion, because he really wanted to do it for his father after he passed away.
MW: Being in Florida with him, training, and running with him. It was great – we had a lot of fun. He was a great, humble guy who’d give you the shirt off his back. He had a really big heart. His work ethic was good. He was always making wisecracks, and he could be a playboy.
AMG: There’s a lot. He was really a joker so there was always something going on. He just brings life. If someone depressed spoke to him they wouldn’t be depressed anymore. I remember being all by myself in Florida with four kids, and I was struggling, and he just knew and would send me money without asking for it. He’d never call, but he’d knock on my door in the middle of the night and be there. It’s like he just knew, somehow.
‘Guys like him are few and far between’Micky Ward
Did he deserve to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, first time?
PL: There’s no doubt in my mind. What he did for boxing; the warrior he was. Was he the greatest, greatest fighter? No. He was a fighter who had a great career. What he’d given to this game, and the fans he created. The Monday morning after he fought my office phone was blowing up. ‘When’s he fighting again?’ His following was unbelievable; people planned their vacations around him fighting twice a year. He put Atlantic City back on the map. You couldn’t get a hotel room or dinner reservation. He had a great run.
MW: I think so. There’s guys in there who didn’t give as much to the sport; great boxers, but boring as hell. Boxing’s about excitement, about the fights, and it’s about what you bring to the sport more than anything. You shouldn’t have to be a four-or five-time world champion; people respected him. He had two careers, really, and did enough to get in there. He was a very good fighter. He’s one of the best I’ve faced and the toughest I faced.
AMG: Pat Lynch told me he once asked, ‘Do you think one day I’m going to be in the Hall of Fame?’ That’s where he would have wanted to be. I wish he was here to see it. Him being voted first time was special, and showed all the hard work that he did. He deserved it. The difference with Arturo was he never had a name. The Gattis were never fighters – he made that name big.
Is Atlantic City now struggling as a boxing venue without him?
PL: Yes. I don’t think it’s ever been the same. They mentioned Kelly Pavlik had a chance to bring it back, and I went to a fight or two of his there, and Kelly had a good following, but nothing like Arturo. Atlantic City itself has declined a little; I know they’re trying to have a bit of a comeback and might do a pretty decent job but most of the big fights end up in New York or Las Vegas because they can afford to out-pay them. There isn’t that blue-chip guy who can fill the Boardwalk Hall. Atlantic City’s [economy] is really struggling.
MW: Yeah, because he was huge down there. I got inducted into the Atlantic City Hall of Fame, and I fought there more than he did, but he was huge there. It’s struggling without him – it’s not what it was without him.
How important was he to HBO during that period?
PL: I remember being told that Arturo was so valuable that their ratings were constantly through the roof, win or lose. I don’t know how many fighters could lose as often as he did but then still keep bringing him back. Usually if you lose one or two you’re gone but his fighting and the atmosphere he brought meant they wanted to keep bringing him back. The one who came close to him then was Roy Jones Jnr, on the number of times he appeared.
MW: HBO was big back then. It was the heavyweights who brought the money, but he was probably outside the heavyweights, or with the heavyweights, the most exciting fighter they had. He shaped it a lot, with the way he fought, and would come from behind, cut and knocked down. He brought a different aspect. He brought my career to another level.
How was your bond with him, following that trilogy and then being hired as his trainer?
MW: It’s a friendship – people don’t get it if they don’t go through that with someone but we just knew each other. It was special. You have so much respect for each other; it was unique. It grew with each fight. It was special, so it was very tough experiencing his death. At the time it kind of feels like losing a part of yourself. Now I’ve happy memories of him.
What was he like as a relative?
AMG: You would never think that Arturo thought he was superior. He was the same way as when he was a child on the night of fights. We’d laugh; we’d talk about when we got in trouble as kids.
The day of my wedding to my second husband was the day I lost my brother and a day I’ll never forget – the 11th of July. Whenever I walk past the store 7-Eleven I remember it, and I never go in. I had a phone call – when all the guests were downstairs at the reception. I don’t want to look at the wedding pictures. I had to go on with it because I had guests waiting. Our brother Fabrizio – Arturo was like a father to him because we lost our father at a young age, so he was messed up. It was more like a funeral than a wedding. My mum was crying – my siblings. We don’t talk about what happened.
You sent private investigators to the scene of his death. What were their findings?
PL: The way it was said he had killed himself – strapped himself underneath, stood on a chair and hung himself from a bannister – with their findings and the tests they’d done [the private investigators] ruled out suicide. I know its independent; the Brazilian authorities are saying it’s not true and have their version. Will we ever know the truth? I don’t think so. Unless by some miracle someone finds God and says, ‘This is what happened.’ There’s no way Arturo Gatti took his own life.
It wasn’t that much of a relief to be told that because I never once believed it. Somehow, someway he was murdered; I didn’t want his children growing up thinking he’d quit on them. One of my goals is to get that solved but we still don’t have that closure.
How do you feel today about the circumstances that surround his death?
PL: It just really sucks, because we really just don’t know what happened.
MW: It’s tragic, and for his kids. Who knows what happened? It’s just sad. I don’t think he was capable of suicide, but who knows? I don’t want to say. His children and family were huge to him. He loved them to death – too much. It’s just tragic.
AMG: I’ve an open mind and thought about how Arturo was, the way he was speaking to me. [Suicide] could be an option but my heart doesn’t tell me so. Deep inside, I know he was murdered. I’m always waiting for a phone call that they will find out what happened. We accused [Amanda back then] because we were mourning. Now, after 10 years, I cannot say because I was not there. It’s a mystery. We don’t have that closure.
Was the relationship with his wife a reflection of one of his flaws – that he could not see it was perhaps not a good one? Did he have a self-destruct button?
PL: Yeah, that could very well be. There was talk that they were going to split up and get divorced, then they went on this vacation. He’d been through a divorce attourney; she decided they should take a vacation, and he never came home. He had a son and a daughter; he only saw his daughter at certain times, and he was afraid she would take his son to Brazil and he wouldn’t see him.
He had his ups and downs, don’t get me wrong, but a complete self-destruct button, no. I really don’t know for sure what happened – I cannot point fingers anywhere.
MW: I guess he did [have a self-destruct button], but he knew when to stop and hold back. He was young back then, and growing into a man. He had self-control over different things.
How’s the relationship between his widow Amanda and surviving family?
PL: I’m in touch with his nephew Freddie from time-to-time; to my knowledge there’s no relationship whatsoever. The widow’s in Montreal, believe it or not.
AMG: We don’t speak, in 10 years. We don’t talk to her; she doesn’t try to keep in touch with my mother. She’s gone; it’s over. If she had nothing to do with it [Arturo’s death], why wouldn’t she stay in touch? That’s the only thing I can say. We see Sophia, the first daughter, on her birthdays, and we stay in touch. We’re grateful we stay in touch with her mum. The other one, no, we have no contact.