One great smaller weight fighter was on his rise, while the champion he faced was unfortunately on his way down, as they met 14 years ago on Tuesday night. That’s when Floyd Mayweather Jr. captured yet another weight division championship, and in the process, escalated the end of Arturo “Thunder” Gatti’s storied career.
Famed Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was the site as Mayweather moved up to 140 lbs. to take on Gatti for his WBC title on June 25th, 2005.
And, it would become obvious quickly, that Mayweather was too young, too fast and too hard-punching for a Gatti. And, that Gatti was clearly no longer the fighter he once was, in terms of reflexes and his own punching capabilities.
The first round had controversy right away, as Mayweather clearly hit Gatti after referee Earl Morton had ordered the fighters to stop punching, but was standing behind Mayweather. Everybody paused for half a second, but then, Mayweather hit Gatti with his hands at his sides, with a left hook that sent him down on the both knees along the ropes.
Morton didn’t acknowledge that he had told the fighters to stop and then, actually counted in front of an angry Gatti, who thought that Mayweather should have been penalized.
It turned out to not matter much.
As the rounds wore on, Mayweather continued to dominate by scoring, in particular, with straight right hands and left hooks behind them. Gatti was no match, was absorbing 15 punches or more per round and had lost every one of the first five rounds, when the sixth began. (Mayweather out landed Gatti 168-41 in total blows.)
Then, once again, Mayweather was on him, landing several clean heavy punches in the first minute of the sixth with Gatti not able to do much in return. Gatti’s left eye, which had been prone to swell shut in previous fights, was doing the same and he could no longer see Mayweather’s right hands coming at him.
Mayweather rocked Gatti with a big left hook in the final 10 seconds of the round, but couldn’t put him down. Still, Gatti’s trainer and former fighter Buddy McGirt agreed that his fighter had had enough and halted things before the start of the seventh round.
The win put Mayweather at 34-o for this third World Title in a different weight class on his way to an eventual 50-0 record, as a professional.
The loss for Gatti dropped him to 39 – 7. He would fight only three more times, finishing 40 – 9 and retiring in 2007.
Gatti died under mysterious circumstances in July of 2009, in Brazil.
Brazilian authorities maintained that Gatti took his own life by hanging, while on a vacation for his sister’s wedding, with his wife in 10 month old son present in their the hotel suite.
However, Gatti’s family and the Canadian government pushed for further investigation into his death and a second autopsy, which was eventually performed weeks later. It proved largely inconclusive. Still unsatisfied, the family had Gatti’s body exhumed almost two years later for another autopsy and further analysis about possible foul play in his death.
The final released findings in November of 2011 by the Canadian investigators maintained that Gatti was actually asphyxiated or “choked to death,” but could not conclude who could have done it or how that happened?
Brazilian authorities stood by their 2009 investigation and closed the case without investigating further or making any charges or arrests.
It was a sad and horrible end to what was a magnificent and heroic boxing career and life for the 37 year old Gatti.
As for Mayweather, he won World Titles in five different weight divisions in his career and was the “Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year” twice. He earned an unheard of $550 million in his pro career. And, “Money May” is largely regarded as one of the great smaller weight fighters of the last 50 years in boxing.