Former boxing champion Arturo Gatti, one of the most exciting fighters of his generation, was found dead in a hotel room in the posh seaside resort of Porto de Galihnas early Saturday.
Police investigator Edilson Alves told The Associated Press that the body of the former junior welterweight champ was discovered in his hotel room at the tourist resort, where Gatti had arrived on Friday with his Brazilian wife Amanda and 1-year-old son.
Alves said police were investigating and it was unclear how the 37-year-old Canadian died. Foul play is suspected in the death, the CBC reported.
“It is still too early to say anything concrete, although it is all very strange,” Alves said.
A spokeswoman for the state public safety department said Gatti’s wife and son were unhurt. The women declined to give a name in keeping with department policy.
“There were no bullet or stab wounds on his body, but police did find blood stains on the floor,” she said.
Brazilian boxer and four-time world champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas told the G1 Web site of Brazil’s largest television network Globo that he was a close friend of Gatti and his wife, and that he “knew they were having some sort of problem and were about to separate, but I didn’t know they were in Brazil.”
Francisco Assis, a local police investigator, told G1 that Gatti could have died up to eight hours before his body was found early Saturday.
Gatti (40-9, 31 KOs), nicknamed “Thunder”, 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.
“His entire boxing career he fought with us, we’ve known him since he was 17,” Kathy Duva of promoter Main Events told The Associated Press. “It’s just an unspeakable tragedy. I can’t even find words. It’s a horror.”
He won two world titles in his 16-year pro career. In 1995, he won his first one, outpointing Tracy Harris Patterson to claim the IBF junior lightweight title.
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 in January 2004.
Gatti made two defenses before losing the title to Floyd Mayweather Jr. via sixth-round TKO in June 2005. He returned to defeat Thomas Damgaard but lost his final two bouts, a ninth-round TKO in a challenge to then-welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir in July 2006 followed by a one-sided beating from former “Contender” star Alfonso Gomez in July 2007.
In the dressing room following the seventh-round knockout loss to Gomez, Gatti announced his retirement.
Referee Randy Neumann said it was tough for him to end that fight, simply because of Gatti’s incredible ability to come back in fights.
“I couldn’t stop that fight, simply because he was Arturo Gatti,” Neumann said. “He was much more dignified to go out that way. He had to be counted out. When he fought, you never knew if he could come back. He looked beaten and still came back.”
With that loss, Gatti acknowledged the end of all his travails and triumphs.
“I remember walking away from his last fight, and somebody walked up to him in the casino late at night and congratulated him,” Duva said. “And he said, ‘Why did he congratulate me?’ And I said, ‘He was excited to meet you.’ And he kind of looked very surprised by that.
“He had no idea what an icon he was or how much he meant to people.”
More than his titles, Gatti will be remembered for the slugfests. He was half of the Ring magazine fight of the year four times for two the Ward fights as well as his 1997 fifth-round knockout of Gabriel Ruelas to retain the junior lightweight title and a 1998 decision loss to Ivan Robinson.
Gatti had two memorable battles with Robinson as well as dramatic fights with Wilson Rodriguez, Angel Manfredy and Calvin Grove — all before the trilogy with Ward that defined his career.
Gatti was a staple of HBO’s boxing broadcasts, appearing on the network 21 times.
“HBO Sports is tremendously saddened by the passing of Arturo Gatti,” HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said. “He was one of the legendary warriors in boxing, and his three epic battles with Micky Ward will live on in the sport’s rich history. All of us at HBO Sports will miss his warm and friendly presence, and our deepest sympathy goes out to his manager Pat Lynch, promoter Main Events, led by Kathy Duva, and the entire Arturo Gatti family. Boxing has lost a great and humble man.”
Gatti had been working in real estate in Montreal following his retirement, but still attended fights, as he did in April for the Timothy Bradley-Kendall Holt junior welterweight unification bout at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
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