Just about everyone’s favourite fighter when he was regularly thrilling millions with epic war after epic war, the late, great Arturo Gatti gave us almost too many classics to remember. For many, Gatti’s three slugfests with the teak-tough Micky Ward top the list, for others it is Gatti’s incredible shoot-out with Wilson Rodriguez, while others still point to “The Human Highlight Reel’s” stupendous fight with Gabriel Ruelas as their favourite Gatti night.
Yet many others list the two mesmerising give and take rumbles Gatti had with Ivan Robinson. It was 20 years ago today, once again at The Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City (this of course being Gatti’s house) when Gatti and Robinson went to war over ten-rounds. Gatti, at the time coming off a stoppage loss to Angel Manfredy (due to cuts, this fight also being no slouch in the action stakes) needed to get back to winning ways. Robinson, hailing from Philly, had other ideas.
It turned out to be a scintillating battle with both men being roared on by the fans, both men giving their all and then some. It was a split decision at the end and though Gatti could have screamed robbery as many lesser fighters would have done, “Thunder” accepted his loss and simply called for a rematch. This came less than four months later (truly incredible considering the brutal nature of fight-one; Gatti banged up yet again) and once again, after another thriller, Robinson walked away with a decision win.
Robinson, very much an underrated warrior, should be far more a celebrated fighter than he is. Not a huge puncher, the fast and classy boxer was blessed with a ton of heart. Here he recalls the two Gatti wins:
“I look at boxing as gambling: you either roll the dice right and win, or you roll it wrong and lose! I wanted to show how I belonged in the mix with anybody; that the name Ivan Robinson should be mentioned against any fighter,” Robinson told this writer a while back. “The Gatti fight put me there. I was a boxer but I did what I had to do to win. The first Gatti fight was a see-saw fight. He looked at it as a way to win and rejuvenate his career and get a title fight. But I said there was no way he was going to just come in and beat me up. I fought that fight to get the respect I needed from the fans. That was definitely my hardest fight at the time, the first Gatti fight. I didn’t want to fight him again, but I had to, to make a statement.”
Robinson felt he would have been rewarded with a world title shot after beating Gatti, instead he and Arturo went to war again.
“Yeah, that should’ve happened for me [a world title shot.] But the fight game, it can be tricky, it can be brutal at times. We tried to make the best decisions at the time. I had just beaten the hottest fighter around in Gatti and I should have had a world title shot. But I was supposed to fight Shane Mosley before I fought Gatti. I went into training and that fight was in line, but I got cut and the cut reopened and that stopped the fight with Mosley. But God moves is mysterious ways, and I got the Gatti fights and I must have made twice as much as I would have against Mosley.”
And with the two fantastic wins over Gatti, Robinson earned himself a place in the hearts of all fight fans who saw him at his best. Gatti is rightly deified as a true legend. Ivan Robinson shouldn’t bee too far behind.