How many times during his simply unmatched, consistently thrilling ring career, did Arturo Gatti go to the well? Close to a dozen times? More? Gatti, who wore his heart for all to see, sucked it up in so many legendary fights: the three wars with Micky Ward, the classic with Wilson Rodriguez, the duo of epics with Ivan Robinson, the shoot-out with Gabriel Ruelas, and many more.
But on this day in 2006, a 34-year-old Gatti came up with nothing much more than an empty bucket when he dug down for juice in his one fight too many, coming as it did against Argentine warrior Carlos Baldomir. It’s always sad, seeing a once-great fighter take that one fight, that one risk too many. On July 22 in 2006, it was Gatti’s turn.
The poster for the fight at The Boardwalk in Atlantic City (this Gatti’s second home) had the headline: ‘3-Time Champ? YOU Tell Him It Can’t Happen.’
Gatti’s fans believed. Plenty of us felt “Thunder” would do it again, that he would take Baldomir’s welterweight title (which the former feather duster seller had taken from Zab Judah in a huge upset earlier that year). Some industry folks, who should have known better, were telling us Baldomir-Gatti would be something approaching what Gatti-Ward IV would have been.
But Gatti, try as he might and wanting to give it his all one more time, found out, like so many of the great ones do, that he had nothing left to give. Gatti, a fighter with a heart as big as any in the sport’s history, managed at times to trade with the bigger, physically stronger Baldomir, but Arturo’s punches had zero effect on the iron-chinned man from Santa Fe.
Baldomir was not a lethal puncher, but his right hand was a clubbing blow, an effective weapon, especially against a naturally smaller man (Gatti having ruled at 130 and at 140). And on this night, such a sad night for Gatti’s many millions of fans, the right hand could not miss. It’s testament to Gatti being Gatti that the fight lasted as long as it did; into the ninth round.
In the fateful round, Gatti was decked twice, the second knockdown forcing the referee to do what had to be done. The fight was over. Gatti never let anyone down, yet his fierce pride told him otherwise. Baldomir was a big player in the welterweight division (and he would soon meet Floyd Mayweather, the man who had so badly outclassed Gatti in 2005; Carlos dropping a near shut-out against “Pretty Boy” in November of 2006 but being paid handsomely for his efforts).
Gatti had gone out on his shield. It was the end, there were no more miracles. Yet in a move almost as insane as Muhammad Ali’s decision to fight again (or try to fight again) after his agonisingly hard to watch pummelling at the hands of Larry Holmes, Gatti laced ’em up one more time. Alfonso Gomez finally brought down the curtain on what many experts say was the most exciting boxing career of the modern era.
As sad as Gatti’s two final fights were, however, his death in 2009, just two years after his last bout, was devastating for his family, friends and fans. Gatti would be living the life of a true ring hero if he was still with us today. As for Baldomir, he suffered a ghastly fall grace when he was found guilty of sexually abusing his own daughter; Baldomir still in jail as we speak.
Together, these two proud fighters suffered more than most. Gatti, though, gave us more than most and we fight fans will forever admire him.