Arturo "Thunder" Gatti belongs in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Period.
There are few hardcore boxing fans, almost none who grew up watching the sport in the mid to late 1990's, that don't have a story about the late Arturo Gatti. And now that he has been named as a candidate for election to the International Boxing Hall of Fame this year, it's time we recall some of them.
For you, maybe it was his 1996 fight against Wilson Rodriguez. Gatti was dropped in the second round and saw his eyes, as was a trademark of his career, rapidly swelling shut. The odds looking dire, Gatti rebounded to drop Rodriguez in the fifth and stop him in the sixth.
Or maybe it was the fourth round of his 1997 fight with Gabriel Ruelas. In that round, Gatti was badly hurt by an uppercut and and swallowed 15 unanswered punches before the bell saved him. Many felt the fight could've and maybe even should've been stopped. Gatti? He came out and knocked Ruelas out in the next round.
Possibly it's his three-fight series with fellow tough guy "Irish" Mickey Ward. These fights don't really require any further comment. Words don't do them justice.
When you look at Arturo Gatti's resume, there is little about it that's overwhelming. With 40 professional wins, nine losses and 31 knockouts, it looks the same as many others of his era.
But like everything else with Arturo Gatti, numbers don't tell the whole story.
If they did, the kid from from Cassesino, Italy would have been counted out long ago and never would've become a two-time world champion and one of the sport's most beloved figures.
Arturo Gatti was boxing's ultimate blood and guts warrior. He was never the most talented fighter, nor did he outclass many guys in the ring, but he would leave his fights bloody, bruised and swollen. And those were the fights he won. That's why you tuned in to see him compete.
You tuned in to see a fighter who would never quit in the ring. You tuned in to see a fighter willing to swallow five, 10, 15 punches in order to land one good shot of his own.
You tuned in to see a man defy the odds time after time, to see a man overcome talent gaps with other fighters through the sheer force of his will to win.
You tuned in to see a man who four times fought in what The Ring Magazine declared was the fight of the year.
Arturo Gatti defined a generation of boxing warriors in the ring. He personified the sport in a way that few fighters ever have or ever will. He was a human in the ring and whether you realized it or not, you genuinely cared about his well being when he fought.
Nobody wants to see guys get hurt in the ring. As fans, we come to appreciate the brutality of the sport. And always on the back burner is the knowledge that one punch could end more than a fight. It could end a career or even a life.
For some reason, that sense was always heightened when Arturo Gatti stepped into the ring. He was one of the few fighters in boxing history to seem genuinely prepared to go out on his sword if necessary to win a fight.
You could easily argue that for much of his career, he was one of, if not the most, iconic figures in the sport. And he wasn't Floyd Mayweather dominating guys with speed and defensive brilliance.
He wasn't Manny Pacquiao, running through weight classes and beating champion after champion in succession.
He wasn't one of the Klitschko brothers, lining up and knocking down every challenger in one of boxing's glamour divisions.
He was just Arturo Gatti. He was just a tough kid who overcame the odds. He was boxing's ultimate blood and guts warrior.
And he should get one more honor. Hall of Famer.