By: Patrick Mascoe
Anytime you create a list like this you are really just asking for an argument. So let me apologize right now. Judging fighters from different eras is extremely difficult and highly subjective. For example, I have only seen two of the fighters on this list fight in the ring. The others fought well before I was ever conceived and are known, not from what I have witnessed but from what I have read regarding the history of boxing. It can also be argued that most of Canada’s greatest boxers are not even Canadian. So, for the purpose of this list, the definition of a Canadian boxer is anyone who was born in Canada or moved to Canada at a young age and has called Canada home. This means one of two things: Canada as a nation has not produced a lot of home grown talent or Canada is a land of opportunity for those who wish to pursue a career in boxing. Let’s go with the second option.
If you are a Canadian reading this list, you will notice one glaring omission. George Chuvalo, who is easily Canada’s most famous boxer, was not necessarily one of our greatest boxers. Chuvalo twice challenged for the heavyweight title but lost both times by decision. In 93 professional fights, Chuvalo was never knocked down and that includes fighting the likes of Muhammad Ali (twice), George Forman, Joe Frazier, Cleveland Williams, Jimmy Ellis, and Buster Mathis. What keeps George Chuvalo off this list, and makes him an honourable mention, is that unlike all the other fighters on this list, he was never inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. However, any man who went fifteen rounds with Muhammad Ali and then bragged, “When it was all over, he was the guy who went to the hospital because he was pissing blood. Me? I went dancing with my wife” deserves to be mentioned when talking about Canadian boxers.
Without further ado, here is my countdown of Canada’s 5 greatest boxers of all-time:
5. Arturo Gatti (1972- 2009): Arturo Gatti was born in Cassino, Italy, but moved to Montreal as a child and eventually competed as a member of Canada’s National Boxing Team before deciding to turn pro. Gatti was known as a blood and guts fighter who possessed power in both hands. He was also extremely resilient and absorbed incredible amounts of punishment before coming back and winning fights he had no right to win. To say that he had a fan-friendly style is an understatement. Gatti was not great in the traditional sense. He did not have Pernell Whittaker’s defence. He did not have Ali’s speed. Nor did he have Mayweather’s technical skill. What he had was a warrior’s spirit and an entertaining style that made fans love him. He was a fearless all-action fighter. He held the IBF Jr. Lightweight Title from 1995-1998 and the WBC Super Lightweight Title from 2004-2005. He retired with a record of 40-9. Gatti was involved in the Ring’s “Fight of the Year” on four different occasions. Arturo Gatti may very well have been the most exciting fighter of his generation.
4. Jimmy McLarnin (1907 – 2004): McLarnin was born in Ireland and moved to Canada at the age of three. He took up boxing at the age of ten. Three years later he caught the eye of a former professional boxer named Charles Foster who believed McLarnin would one day be a world champion. McLarnin started his professional career fighting in Vancouver but was dissatisfied by the low pay and decided to pursue his craft in the United States. His youthful appearance was a hindrance, so he had to lie about his age. However, once in the ring there was no mistaking his power. It was for that reason he was known as the “Baby-faced Assassin.”
In 1928, he had a title shot against world lightweight champion, Sammy Mandell, but lost the fight by decision. Despite the fact that he beat Mandell twice in the following two years, as well as knocking out Benny Leonard, one of the greatest fighters of all-time, he was made to wait five years before getting another shot at the title. This time, when his opportunity came, he made the most of it by knocking out Young Corbett III in the first round to win the world welterweight title. He would lose his title to Barney Ross, then win it back again in a rematch, only to lose it again in their third match. Unlike many boxers of that era, McLarnin decided to retire while still at the top of his game. In his final two fights, he defeated hall of famers Tony Canzoneri and Lou Ambers. Despite many generous offers, McLarnin refused to come out of retirement. He certainly didn’t need the money as he had invested wisely and was a very wealthy man.
3. Tommy Burns (1881 – 1955): Tommy Burns is the only Canadian-born boxer to ever hold the world heavyweight title. He was born in Hanover, Ontario in 1881. Burns was an extremely small heavyweight, standing only 5 ft. 7 in. tall and weighing 175 pounds. In 1906, Burns was a 2 to 1 underdog when he faced heavyweight champion Marvin Hart. Not only did Burns win the heavyweight title, he went on to defend it eleven times.
Tommy Burns was a man well ahead of his time. Historically, his legacy should be far greater than it is. He is known as the boxer who was defeated by Jack Johnson, who became the first fighter of African descent to win the heavyweight title. As much as history recognizes Johnson’s feat, Burns also deserves a great deal of credit, as he was the first white boxer willing to put the heavyweight title on the line against a fighter of colour. At a time when boxing was almost completely divisive and no white fighter wanted anything to do with Jack Johnson, Tommy Burns had fought half a dozen bouts versus black boxers. He hired and worked out with black sparring partners, and was married for a time to a black woman. He claimed that he would defend his title against all comers and that no one was barred. “I propose to be the champion of the world. If I am not the best man in the heavyweight division then I don’t want the title.” Without this attitude of inclusion, Jack Johnson might not have been given the chance to make history. Johnson said as much in 1909, when he addressed an audience in Vancouver, saying that Burns deserved credit for being the only white heavyweight fighter willing to give a black man a chance to fight for the title.
Although Tommy Burns retired from boxing a wealthy man, he lost everything in the Stock Market Crash of 1929. He ended his career taking jobs as an insurance salesman and security guard. He died at the age of 73 of a heart attack.
2. Samuel Langford (1883 – 1956): According to ESPN, Sam Langford was the “Greatest Fighter Nobody Knows.” Born in Weymouth Falls, Nova Scotia, Canada, Langford started his pro career fighting out of Boston. This explains why he was known as the Boston Bonecrusher, the Boston Terror, and the infamous Boston Tar Baby. Despite standing only 5 ft. 7 ½ in., Langford fought from lightweight to heavyweight. Even though he always gave up either height or weight, he only lost 29 times out of an alleged 300 professional fights. The legendary, Jack Dempsey, once described Samual Langford as the greatest fighter we ever had.
One year after turning professional, Langford defeated World Lightweight Champion Joe Gans in a 15-round non-title fight. On April 26th, 1906 Langford fought future World Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson. Langford gave up 30 pounds to Johnson and lost a 15-round decision. Apparently, Langford showed enough skill in that first fight to make sure that there would never be a rematch. Throughout his career, Johnson repeatedly refused to fight Langford, even though he was considered by many to be Johnson’s most dangerous challenger. Battling Jim Johnson, a man Langford had beaten nine times and had never lost to, was given a title shot against Jack Johnson, while Langford was left waiting. Langford never did get a rematch against Jack Johnson. When Jack Johnson, the baddest man on the planet, avoids you like the plague, then you know you possess greatness.
1. Lennox Lewis (1965 – Present): Lewis was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 12. He represented Canada at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, winning a gold medal. He defeated Riddick Bowe in the final. After winning his first 22 professional fights, he was once again slated to fight Bowe, this time for his WBC Heavyweight Title. Rather than face Lewis, Bowe vacated the title and Lewis was declared the new champion. After defending his title three times, he suffered an upset loss to Oliver McCall. On February 7th 1997, Lewis got his revenge by stopping McCall in the fifth round and regaining the WBC Title.
On March 13th, 1999, Lewis faced WBA and IBF Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield. Lewis clearly won the match, out landing Holyfield 348 to 130, but somehow the match was declared a draw. A rematch was immediately ordered and this time the judges saw what everyone else in attendance saw – a clear unanimous decision victory for Lewis. He defended his titles three more times before again being upset by an underdog named Hasim Rahman. He fought Rahman again in an immediate rematch and won back his titles by way of 5th round knockout. He fought twice more after that, knocking out International Boxing Hall of Fame fighters Mike Tyson in 8 rounds and Vitali Klitschko in 6 rounds. Lennox Lewis retired with a 41-2-1 record and rebounded to defeat the only two men to ever beat him. Lewis, along with Ingemar Johansson and Rocky Marciano, are the only world heavyweight champions to retire with victories over every man they ever faced as a professional.
By: Patrick Mascoe
Being great and being famous are two very different things. However, one of the characteristics that often go along with greatness is fame. Sometimes being famous leads to the assumption that one is great, but they are not one and the same. For example, when a baseball player is inducted into Cooperstown there is certain unwritten criterion that the player is expected to achieve. In a sense, baseball has deemed that certain numbers quantify one as being great. It may be 3000 hits or 500 home runs. In hockey, 500 goals will get you into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In these sports, excitement, charisma, and entertainment value do not define greatness – statistics do.
Entry into the International Boxing Hall of Fame is a lot more subjective. Statistics are still important, but charisma, courage, and bravery are also highly valued. As a result, not every boxer in the International Boxing Hall of Fame was great. Some were just very good. What allows them to be mentioned, in the same breath as the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Joe Louis, are their intangibles.
Statistics can not measure a man’s will to win or his ability to take a punch. They don’t gage fan excitement or exhilaration. For example, Floyd Mayweather is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. He exhibited greatness in the ring, was a multiple world champion, and remained undefeated throughout his career. Mayweather also possessed God-given talent that made it hard for the average fan to relate to.
When he clashed with Arturo Gatti, Mayweather made him look like an amateur fighter. Yet it was Gatti who could sell out venues and made every fight must-see-TV. The technically superior Mayweather was labelled “boring.” We as fans could relate to the Arturo Gatti’s of the world. We saw him labour and could appreciate his bravery and his tenacity. Floyd is boxing royalty while Gatti was boxing’s common man. Floyd Mayweather was great. Arturo Gatti was good, but made us feel great.
Arturo Gatti was not a great fighter. Nevertheless, in 2012 he was enshrined into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Gatti was not the only good fighter to enter the Hall. Other fighters also captured our attention. They shined so bright, we were mesmerized and captivated by their talents but failed to see their inefficiencies.
Here is my countdown of boxers who were very good, but not great, who rode a wave of excitement and adulation into the International Boxing Hall of Fame:
5. Matthew Saad Muhammad: In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Matthew Saad Muhammad was one of the most exciting fighters in boxing. He held the WBC World Light Heavyweight title from 1979 – 1981 and defended it eight times. He finished his career with a record of 49 wins, 16 losses and 3 draws. He was known as an all-action fighter, who was incredibly resilient. Just when it looked like he was on the verge of defeat, he would mount a magical comeback and win.
Muhammad was an excellent finisher and possessed considerable power. His one substantial weakness was his permeable defence. He fought every match as if he were working out on a heavy bag: all offense – no defence. His style made him fun to watch, but it also made him very easy to hit. Every fight, no matter how strong or weak the opposition, was a life and death struggle.
When we break down what Muhammad did in the ring, you have to wonder why he is in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. First of all, he lost a quarter of his fights. Yes, eight of his losses came at the end of his career, but they are still losses. Almost twenty fights into his professional career; he was still being matched against fighters with losing records. Even after winning a world title and right up to his retirement, he fought boxers with losing records.
Muhammad did defend his title eight times. However, none of those title challengers stood out as being exceptional. In one of his most illustrious fights, in 1980, against Yaqui Lopez, he was hit with twenty unanswered punches. He was on the verge of having the fight stopped, only to come back and knock out Lopez in the 14th round. Ring Magazine declared it the “Fight of the Year.” Yaqui Lopez was a solid fighter but he was a fighter who, during his career, challenged for a world title five times and lost all five fights.
The only truly great fighter Muhammad ever faced was Dwight Muhammed Qawi. They fought twice. Qawi won the first match and took Muhammad’s Light Heavyweight Title by way of a ten round TKO. In the return match, Qawi won again, this time in six.
Muhammad defeated a number of good fighters, but he never beat a great fighter. Many of his victories were against weaker competition and when he did fight good fighters, he had his hands full. He also lost 16 times during his career. Did he have the heart of a champion? Was he entertaining? Was he incredibly courageous? Yes. Yes. Yes. Was he a great fighter? No.
4. Arturo Gatti: He was known as an absolutely fearless all-action fighter. Much like Matthew Saad Muhammad, Gatti had a supernatural ability to endure punishment while always pressing forward. He held the IBF Jr. Lightweight Title from 1995-1998 and the WBC Super Lightweight Title from 2004-2005. He retired with a record of 40 – 9.
Gatti was involved in the Ring’s “Fight of the Year” on four different occasions. He defeated Gabriel Ruelas, was defeated by Ivan Robinson, and had both a victory and a loss against Micky Ward. These fights were character defining, monumental battles for Gatti, but the men he faced were themselves not great boxers. They were like him, good solid professionals.
His will, power, and iron chin always made him a formidable opponent. However, he was easy to hit and was often out-boxed even in victory. In Gatti’s first defence of his IBF Junior Lightweight Title against Wilson Rodriguez, he was completely schooled and had been taking a hellacious beating before coming back to stop Rodriguez in a desperation finish. Against Angel Manfredy, another good fighter, but never a champion, Gatti was again completely out boxed and the fight was stopped in the eighth round.
When Gatti actually faced Hall of Fame level competition, he came up considerably short. He fought Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. Neither fight was even close. Against Oscar, the fight was stopped in five rounds and against Floyd, the fight was stopped in six. These outcomes showed that although Arturo was a great fighter to watch, he simply did not posses the same calibre of skill as the elite fighters of the day.
Arturo Gatti may very well have been one of the most exciting fighters of his generation. He possessed a great chin, great power, and a great heart. Despite those valiant qualities, he was not one of the all-time greatest boxers in history.
3. Ray Mancini: If you judged Mancini only by his boxing style, you would swear that he and Arturo Gatti came from the same family. Like Gatti, Mancini was an in your face, aggressive pressure fighter. He had decent power and a granite chin. Whatever he lacked in skill, he made up for with unbelievable heart. Mancini held the WBA Lightweight Title from 1982-1984 and retired with a record of 29 – 5.
Mancini garnered national attention, not only for his entertaining fighting style, but because of a heart-rending background story. His father, veteran boxer Lenny “Boom Boom” Mancini, missed his opportunity to fight for a world title because of WWII. Ray, who idolized his father, took up boxing with the idea that he could finish what his father had started.
After compiling a 20-0 record, Mancini was given the opportunity to fight for a world title. Unfortunately, it was against Hall of Famer Alexis Arguello, arguably one of the greatest boxers of his era. Mancini fought bravely and took the fight to Arguello, but was eventually stopped in the 14th round. For the media and for boxing fans, this only made Mancini’s story more compelling. He won his next two fights and was again given a title shot, this time against Arturo Frias for the WBA Lightweight Title.
Mancini stopped Frias in the first round after almost being stopped himself. His fairy tale life story had now taken on the happy ending that all fans had wished for. Along with being a good fighter, Mancini always appeared to be a genuinely good guy. He went on to defend his title four times against the likes of Ernesto Espana, Duk-koo Kim, Orlando Romero, and Bobby Chacon and fought two non-title fights against George Feeney and Johnny Torres. Bobby Chacon was the only recognizable fighter Mancini faced as champion, and he was a natural featherweight who had moved up in weight for this fight. This would be Mancini’s last professional victory.
Eventually, Mancini lost his title, as well as a rematch to Livingston Bramble. He then lost bouts to Hector Camacho and Greg Haugen before retiring. Mancini was both exciting and entertaining. During his career he faced off against three Hall of Famers. He lost to two of them and defeated one. Mancini’s sentimental story was greater than his skills. I can’t help but think that without the story, he wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. Instead, he would be regarded as being very similar to the likes of Vinny Pazienza, an entertaining fighter who is on the outside of the Hall looking in.
2. Prince Naseem Hamed: He was known for his elaborate ring entrances, his unorthodox boxing style, and his one punch knock out power. Nassem reigned as the WBO Featherweight Champion from 1995 – 2000. He retired from boxing with an impeccable record of 36-1. Always a polarizing figure, some feel he was one of the greatest featherweights of all time, while others including his former promoter see him as one of boxing’s greatest underachievers.
Prince Naseem’s story is not about what he accomplished, but rather about what he never tried to accomplish. He defended his WBO Title a total of fifteen times. This was back in a time when the WBO was even more insignificant than it is now. His resume of title defences was a who’s who of no-name, average fighters; Said Lawal, Daniel Alicea, Remigio Molina, Tom Johnson, and Jose Badillo. Prince Naseem never fought the best fighters available at the time of his reign. The fighters he never faced tell us more about him than the fighters he defeated; Azumah Nelson, Jeff Fenech, Gabriel Ruelas, Arturo Gatti, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Diego Corrales, and Johnny Tapia.
Prince Naseem fought the vast majority of his fights in the UK, where fans obviously seemed unbothered by the lack of aggressive matchmaking. It was only when he came to the United States that the Prince was really tested. He knocked out a very good opponent in Kevin Kelly in the 4th round of their epic battle at Madison Square Gardens. Despite the victory, Kelly was able to expose Naseem’s defensive shortcomings as he put him on the canvas three times.
In 2001, Prince Naseem finally engaged in a high profile fight against a world-class opponent, Marco Antonio Barrera. Barrera had agreed to move up in weight in order to fight the larger Naseem. How did the Prince fare against a legitimate Hall of Fame fighter? He was given a complete boxing lesson. Not only did Barrera beat Prince Naseem physically, it looked like he beat the will to fight right out of him. When Barrera lost to Junior Jones, he demanded an immediate rematch. When he lost to Erik Morales he came back and fought him two more times. What did Prince Naseem do after losing to Barrera? He fought someone named Manuel Calvo, was booed by his hometown fans for his poor performance, and never boxed again.
Prince Naseem was far more flash than substance. Yes, he had a great record, but so did Butterbean. It’s not his many victories over subpar opponents that we should measure him by. It is his one loss and all the fighters he avoided that really define his legacy. Yes, he was famous, more for his ring entrances than anything else. That should get him on “Dancing with the Stars”, but not in the Boxing Hall of Fame.
1. Mike Tyson – From 1985 – 2005, Mike Tyson was the biggest name in boxing. Much like Prince Naseem, Tyson was a polarizing figure, both inside and outside of the ring. Once dubbed “the baddest man on the planet”, Tyson was the Heavyweight Champion from 1986-1990 and again in 1996. He was an intimidating force who possessed great power and fought like a ravenous predator. Tyson was well on his way to greatness. He became the youngest man ever to hold the heavyweight title and by February 10, 1990, he had a record of 37-0 with 33 knock outs.
Dramatically, the very next day, everything would change for Tyson and his cloak of invincibility would be shredded by Buster Douglas. Douglas was a tall rangy fighter with an excellent jab. He was a skilled fighter who often lacked motivation, yet against Tyson he refused to be intimidated. Despite being a 42-1 underdog, Douglas knocked Tyson out in the 10th round. It was at this point in his career that Tyson’s quest for greatness ended. No longer the intimidating figure he once was, his life began to fall apart.
He engaged in, and won two tough fights against Razor Ruddock. Then in July of 1991, he was arrested and convicted of rape. He spent the next three years incarcerated at the Plainfield Correctional Facility. Upon his release, he returned to the ring and defeated Frank Bruno to become the WBC Heavyweight Champion. The victory helped set up a much anticipated and long awaited fight against Evander Holyfield.
Going into the Holyfield fight, Tyson was considered a heavy favourite. Evander Holyfield was 34 years old and was thought to be washed up. Much like Buster Douglas, Holyfield was not apprehensive about facing Iron Mike and his celebrated reputation. By the end of the night, it was Holyfield’s reputation that had been boosted after stopping Tyson in the 11th round.
Their immediate rematch lasted only three rounds. Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear not once, but twice and was subsequently disqualified. This was the action of a man who chose quitting over fighting. As a result of his actions, Tyson had become a pariah. Numerous boxing commissions refused to grant him a license to box. In 2002, in Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tyson once again challenged for the heavyweight title. This time he faced off against Lennox Lewis. Lewis dominated the match, winning by knockout in the 8th.
Throughout his career, Tyson fought four Hall of Fame fighters. He defeated Michael Spinks, a great light heavyweight masquerading as a heavyweight and a well past his prime Larry Holmes, who came out of retirement for an appealing pay cheque. He was thoroughly beaten by Lennox Lewis and lost to Evander Holyfield twice – once by knockout and once by disqualification (which was nothing more than a way to quit rather than being knocked out again).
Why is Mike Tyson in the Hall of Fame? The most memorable thing he ever did in a ring was to bite a man’s ear off. Tyson had a great start to his career however, along the way he was exposed as nothing more than a bully and a quitter. Tyson did not just quit against Holyfield. He also quit in the last fight of his career against journey man boxer Kevin McBride. Tyson could have been great; in the end I don’t believe he was even one of the top three best heavyweight fighters of his era. Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, and Riddick Bowe were all superior to Tyson.
In conclusion, all five fighters mentioned on this list had one thing in common; they were aggressive warriors that endeared themselves to boxing fans. They were all great to watch, but they themselves were not necessarily great. Based on the intangible qualities of courage, bravery, and determination, I believe there is an argument to be made on behalf of Matthew Saad Muhammad, Arturo Gatti, and Ray Mancini, being in the Hall of Fame. However, there should be no room in the Boxing Hall of Fame for imposters like Prince Naseem Hamad and quitters like Mike Tyson, no matter how famous they were.
A Weekend to Remember at Atlantic City’s Boxing Hall of Fame!
Coming to Atlantic City the weekend of May 26, 27 and 28 is a weekend to remember among boxing royality as the 2017 Atlantic City inductees will be inducted into their Hall of Fame. The Claridge a Radison hotel will be the place to go.
The inductees go on and on such as “Iron” Mike Tyson, *Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, *Leavander Johnson, Michael Spinks, *Matthew Saad Muhammad, Larry “the Easton Assassin” Holmes, Mike “the Jewish Bomber” Rossman, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, *Lou Duva, Mike Hall Sr. *Bill Johnson, Don King, Frank Gelb, Russell Peltz, Don Elbaum, Larry Hazzard Sr., Dr. Frank Doggett, Steve “Double SS” Smoger, Dave Bontempo, *Jack “KO” Obemayer, *Bert Sugar, *Bob Lee, Ken Condon and Dennis Gomes. *posthemous
The ACBHOF was established in 2014 and at the Vue the doors open at 5pm to 8pm on Friday May 26th. Also the same day presented will be “The Art of Music & Boxing” at the Celebrity Theatre doors open at 7pm and show starts at 8pm to 11pm.
On Saturday May 27th “Fight Fan Experience” at the Conference Center doors open at 9:00am and will run from 10am to 4pm. “2017 Honoree Gala” at the Art Gallery doors open at 7:00pm and event 7:15 to 11pm.
On Sunday May 28th “Inaugural Induction Ceremony” at Brighton Park from 9:00am to 1pm. Go to www.acbhof.com for information.
Gatti vs. Gomez: The Thunder’s Last Rumble
By: Ron Scarfone
In June 2003, Arturo “Thunder” Gatti and “Irish” Micky Ward completed their trilogy of three consecutive fights. Ward won by majority decision in the first fight. Gatti won the second and third fights by unanimous decision. The first and third fights won Fight of the Year honors. Ward announced his retirement after their third fight. However, Gatti remained active and won the vacant WBC super lightweight title which has a 140 pound weight limit.
Gatti successfully defended his title twice, but lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in his third title defense. For his next fight, Gatti moved up to the welterweight division and won the vacant International Boxing Association (IBA) welterweight title, but lost to Carlos Baldomir in his first title defense. Baldomir was the WBC welterweight champion, so his title was also at stake. Baldomir retained his WBC title and obtained the IBA title after defeating Gatti by TKO. Gatti was knocked down twice in the ninth round and the fight was stopped. Gatti was IBF super featherweight champion and WBC super lightweight champion in his career. Once Gatti moved up to welterweight, he could only win the lightly regarded IBA welterweight title. Nearly a year after Gatti fought Baldomir, Gatti was scheduled to fight Alfonso Gomez on July 14, 2007. This was a non-title bout in the welterweight division. Gomez is best known for being a contestant on the first season of The Contender television show.
At the time, I was working for the original Boxing Tribune website as an editor, writer, and videographer. The owner of the website asked me if I would make a video of Gatti training in Pompano Beach, Florida at Sultan Ibragimov’s gym. Ibragimov was the WBO heavyweight champion and had won the title in June 2007 against Shannon Briggs. I did get to meet Ibragimov a few months later and record his workout on video when he was preparing for his first title defense against Evander Holyfield. When I previously made videos of boxers in training, I just asked the boxer, his trainer, or his manager if I was allowed to. I found out that Micky Ward was training Gatti for this fight. Ward and Gatti were friends after their famous trilogy of fights. I was able to obtain Ward’s phone number and called him. I asked Ward if he would allow me to bring my digital camera and make a video of Gatti training. Ward told me that it would be okay with him if Gatti’s promoter said it was okay. I then called Main Events which was the promotional company for the fight and Gatti’s promoter. I talked to a woman and I assume it was Main Events promoter Kathy Duva, but I didn’t ask. I just asked if I could have permission to make a video of Gatti. She said if it was okay with Ward, then it would be okay. I told her that Ward said it was okay if Main Events said it was okay. She reiterated that if Ward said it is okay, then it is okay. Neither Ward nor Main Events wanted to make the final decision. I decided that I would go to the gym and tell Ward that they said it was okay, but not refer to who “they” are.
I knew what time the training was supposed to begin, but arrived at the gym earlier before anyone else. The gym was in a warehouse next to other warehouses of the same building. I assumed that Ibragimov and the other businesses there were paying rent. I saw a car park in front of the gym. Ward got out of the car and someone else did too. I stared at this person because I remembered that I saw him before, but I forgot who he was and where I saw him. He looked at me watching him, so I approached him. “You look familiar,” I said. “I’m Jeff Fraza,” he replied. I immediately remembered where I saw him before. Fraza was a contestant on the first season of The Contender television show in 2005. Gomez was also on the show during that time. “What are you doing here?” I asked. “I’m Arturo’s sparring partner,” Fraza said. Is it possible that Fraza was chosen as a sparring partner because of being on The Contender show? Did he have some inside information about Gomez? That probably was not the reason. Fraza was on the show only briefly and had to leave early due to having chicken pox. However, Fraza did return for the second season of The Contender in 2006. I believe Fraza was chosen to be Gatti’s sparring partner because he was a friend of Ward. Both Ward and Fraza were from the state of Massachusetts.
An African-American man was overseeing Ibragimov’s gym and he came to unlock the door. It was a small gym, but it had a ring and a speed bag. A large teardrop punching bag was suspended over the center of the ring. It looked like a wrecking ball. This type of bag can be used for punching and kicking. Gatti arrived shortly after the gym was opened. I took my digital camera out of my bag and talked to Ward. “They said it was okay,” I said. “Okay,” Ward said. Gatti put on a sweat suit. This is also known as a sauna suit. It helps athletes to lose water weight and also to increase their metabolic rate which stimulates the body to burn more fat. Gatti began jumping rope while wearing the sweat suit, so I recorded Gatti on video. Ward saw me and told me not to record while Gatti was wearing the sweat suit.
Obviously, Ward did not want Gomez to know that Gatti was having trouble making weight. I deleted the video and waited until Gatti removed the sweat suit. After several minutes of Gatti jumping rope, he removed the sweat suit and then he resumed jumping rope. I began recording the video of Gatti using the jump rope for a few minutes. Gatti then entered the ring. Gatti punched the large teardrop bag which was hovering over the ring. One time though, Gatti did a front kick to the bottom of the bag. Ward jokingly said “UFC” and then the African-American man also jokingly said “K-1.” K-1 combines martial arts such as karate, kung fu, taekwondo, Muay Thai, and kickboxing. K-1 fights take place in a ring and the fighters wear gloves similar to boxing gloves.
After Gatti was finished punching the teardrop bag, Ward entered the ring and put on focus mitts. It was interesting to see Gatti and Ward in the ring together again, but not as opponents of each other. Gatti punched the focus mitts worn by Ward. After this part of the training, Gatti punched the speed bag. I stood near Gatti and recorded him with my camera as he was training with the speed bag for a few rounds. Gatti briefly glanced at me while he was punching the speed bag and then he focused his attention on the bag. Gatti still had more training to do after this session. I was wondering when he was going to spar Fraza and if I could record that on video. Apparently, Gatti was going to spar Fraza later in the day. Nevertheless, Gatti did not want me to record him sparring Fraza. This was understandable, especially because he did not want to reveal any strategy before his upcoming fight against Gomez.
However, Gatti did offer to let me record him doing weight training at another gym. I politely declined because I was eager to edit the footage I already had. As I predicted, Gatti’s training video was very popular with boxing fans and the original Boxing Tribune website got a lot more views as a result. The website no longer exists, so the video is not available for the public to view.
I did not think Gatti’s fight against Gomez would be his last fight, but I did not expect Gatti to win. His training session was not grueling and he was wearing a sweat suit for part of the training in order to lose weight. If he was having trouble making weight, then that could affect his strength and punching power in the fight. Also, Gatti’s performance in his previous fight was a sign that Gatti’s skills were in decline. When Gatti was knocked down twice and lost to Baldomir who had nine losses on his record, that was reason to believe that Gatti was not as good at welterweight. The loss to Baldomir was only a year before his fight against Gomez. Gomez was not an elite boxer, but he had skills and only had three losses on his record which were all close losses by unanimous decision. Furthermore, Gomez was a super welterweight in his previous few fights before facing Gatti. Gomez was coming down to welterweight for this fight, but Gomez was a welterweight earlier in his career and seemed to do equally well in both weight classes and even fought at middleweight a few times when he was on the first season of The Contender. Gatti was at a disadvantage against an opponent like Gomez who had the versatility to fight at different weight classes. Gomez was also about eight years younger than Gatti who was 35 years old which is not very old for an athlete, but he did have a lot of brutal fights in his career which aged him.
The Tale of the Tape revealed that both Gatti and Gomez had the same arm length at 25 inches. Their heights were similar with Gatti at 5’8” and Gomez at 5’9”. The fight was televised on HBO. It was scheduled for ten rounds. The fight was in Atlantic City, New Jersey which is the state where Gatti lived. Of course, most of the audience wanted Gatti to win. HBO gave Gatti his choice among a few possible opponents and Gatti ultimately chose Gomez because he was viewed as beatable. Essentially, Gomez was handpicked. It turned out to be a bad decision for the reasons that I stated. After Gatti’s fight against Baldomir, Gatti was inactive for nearly one year. It was 356 days which was the longest inactivity of his career. Ring announcer Michael Buffer did not even say Gatti’s nickname “Thunder” when introducing Gatti. It was as if Gatti no longer had thunderous power in his punches. Instead, Buffer extended the o in Gatti’s first name Arturo for as long as humanly possible: “Arturoooooooooooooooooooooooo Gatti!”
In the first round, Gomez’s punches were more precise than Gatti’s. It was apparent that Gomez was bigger than Gatti even though they weighed about the same for the weigh-in. Gomez was counterpunching better than Gatti. As a result, Gomez landed some hard punches to Gatti’s head. Gatti did better in round two, but Gomez still probably won the round. Ward was in Gatti’s corner giving advice to Gatti during the break between the rounds. After round three, Ward told Gatti that he needed to throw more punches and combinations as well as use his speed. Harold Lederman of HBO unofficially scored the fight 30-27 in favor of Gomez for rounds one through three. In round four, Gomez continued his dominance landing hard left jabs, left hooks, and straight rights. After round five, Ward warned Gatti about Gomez’s right hand and for Gatti to keep his left hand up for defense. In round six, Gomez still was able to connect with the right hand. Lederman scored the sixth round in favor of Gatti which was a surprise to me. I thought that Gomez won the round. In round seven, Gomez landed a double right hand to the head that hurt Gatti. Gatti was being pummeled against the ropes. Gatti managed to remain standing. Gatti was then standing in one of the ring corners. Gatti and Gomez exchanged left jabs to each other’s head, but Gomez countered and landed a strong right hand to the head that floored Gatti immediately. Larry Hazzard entered the ring and waved his hands while the referee was counting. Then, the referee waved his hands after seeing Hazzard do this. Hazzard was the commissioner of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. Gatti was cut on the lip as a result of the knockout punch. The time of stoppage was 2:12 of round seven. Gomez won by TKO. Gomez landed 46% of his punches. Gatti landed only 21% of his punches. Gomez landed 216 punches and Gatti landed 74 punches. Gatti said after the fight that Gomez was stronger and the bigger man. Gatti also said that he is different when fighting at 140 pounds compared to 147 pounds, but he can no longer make the 140 pound weight limit. Gatti announced his retirement because he did not want to continue fighting at 147 pounds.
It was ironic that I found out about Gatti’s death while I was at a boxing event. On July 11, 2009, I was at the IBF bantamweight title fight between Vic Darchinyan and Joseph Agbeko. The fight was in Sunrise, Florida and Don King was promoting the event. I had a press credential, but there were a lot of journalists there. The original Boxing Tribune website was gone. I was sending articles to East Side Boxing. I was sitting behind other journalists and noticed a laptop screen of a writer. He was reading an article on a website and this was the title of it: Arturo Gatti Found Dead. I was stunned and saddened at the same time. How? Why? Gatti was 37 years old. Gatti was on his second honeymoon with his wife and baby in Brazil. Gatti was found dead in an apartment. Blood stains were on his neck and back of his head. Initially, the police in Brazil charged Gatti’s 23-year-old wife Amanda Rodrigues with Gatti’s murder. Police stated that Rodrigues used her purse strap to choke Gatti. Rodrigues’ purse was found stained with blood. However, Brazilian police ultimately concluded that Gatti committed suicide by using his wife’s purse strap to hang himself. The police made this conclusion after the coroner’s report was released. Gatti’s friends and family did not believe that Gatti would do such a thing. Private investigators from the United States who were hired by friends of Gatti concluded that Gatti had been killed by being hit from behind and then strangled. Rodrigues claimed that she was innocent and she was released from jail because the Brazilian authorities no longer considered her a suspect. I believe that Gatti was murdered.
I still think about the fact that I met Gatti just two years before his death in 2009. His sparring partner Jeff Fraza died in 2012 as a result of being hit by an empty train on commuter tracks in Massachusetts. It was reported that Fraza was walking on railroad tracks and appeared to be talking on a cellphone. Police said that the train was travelling at 35 miles per hour. Gatti’s record was 40-9, 31 KOs. He was a world champion in two weight classes by defeating Tracy Harris Patterson for the IBF super featherweight title in 1995 and Gianluca Branco for the WBC super lightweight title in 2004. Gatti was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013. There was debate by boxing fans as to whether Gatti deserved to be inducted. He would still be remembered even if he had not been inducted. Gatti was in four fights that won Fight of the Year honors and that is one of the main reasons why he was inducted. Gatti always wanted to give fans their money’s worth and was known as The Human Highlight Reel. Gatti’s fight against Gomez was the last time the “Thunder” rumbled and it was his last rumble. It would have been great if Gatti was alive to accept and see his induction into the Hall of Fame. Because of his tumultuous marriage and his untimely death, Gatti was not able to enjoy his retirement and his family and friends miss him. I am sure that the friends and family of Fraza miss him too. Rest in peace Arturo Gatti and Jeff Fraza.