[Warning: Explicit language.]
"They used me worse than a nigger..."
George Willis, the columnist for the New York Post, exited the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on a sunny pleasant summer Sunday afternoon earlier this year. He debated to himself, go to his car and start the four hour drive back to New Jersey - or walk across the street from the Hall of Fame and go to McDonalds, grab a bite, and start writing my story. He knew it was a big story.
Willis decided to begin work. Waiting in line to order some food, he overheard an elderly couple say to a little boy, "Junior, come here. Junior" The little kid was dressed in a suit. "Junior." Willis put it together. It was Arturo Gatti Jr. Yes, it was.
The older woman was a neighbor of Gatti and his wife Amanda who still lives in the same apartment building in Montreal. She and her husband, who are in their 70's, used to babysit little Arturo since he was a baby when Arturo and Amanda went away. For the Hall of Fame induction weekend, they drove little Arturo the eight hours and chaperoned him to witness the induction of his famous deceased father Arturo "Thunder" Gatti.
(the following is the account of a Gatti insider)
"Amazingly, Arturo's son had a hard time getting into the Hall of Fame that day. Can you believe they were made to wait almost a half hour? And when they finally let him in they gave him a seat in the back. They never brought young Arturo up to introduce to the audience. If George Willis didn't, by chance, bump into young Arturo and his hosts at McDonalds, nobody would have ever known he was there. The presentation was all set up to show the daughter (of Gatti)."
"George Willis wrote his column in the New York Post about little Arthur being kept in the back, and someone called him and said Why are you taking sides? George Willis said I'm not taking sides I'm writing what I saw. I actually believe it was some kind of intervention for George Willis to go to McDonalds and meet little Arthur before driving home. I think it was Arturo Gatti who made George Willis go to McDonalds to meet his son."
The true story of the tragic boxing career of Arturo Gatti has never been told...(Via his original manager and best friend Mario Costa, who housed Gatti when he first came to N.J.)
"Arthur told me, "Mario, I want you to tell everybody. I want you to tell everybody what they did to me. They used me worse than a nigger. This was in the beginning, after the De La Hoya fight, because he had no contract with HBO. And I would go see Pat Lynch and tell him, He's gonna kill himself. Pat Lynch always had excuses. Oh, he had a fight with his girlfriend. He played it out like it was nothing. He said, The problem with Arturo is he's a B fighter, he's not an A fighter. They used him because he could bring the crowds, bring the money."
"I have a copy of the document from Christ Hospital in Jersey, September 26, 2005 (three months after loss to Floyd Mayweather), I can show it to you. Overdose. When I got the call from Christ Hospital, they told me that Gatti had been found unresponsive at home and that he had no heart beat. They said he expired. Then they brought him back to fight in Atlantic City three months later in January 2006 (to face Thomas Damgaard for vacant IBA Welterweight title)."
"I called the Commission, Main Events, HBO, I said I was John O'Brien a friend of Arthur's, Arthur has a serious problem, he tried to kill himself. How could you let him fight? They said they couldn't get the records from the hospital. Then I went to Pat Lynch. How can you do this? How can you let him fight? Pat said he just took some antibiotics, and he's okay, they covered it up. This is why he's dead. They never tried to help him. It was always about the money, about the next fight, it was about the greed."
"I found the truth when I got the hospital records myself, AFTER he died (in Brazil). It was an overdose and the report said that Arthur needed psychiatric consultation. And they never got the help for Arthur. For years I thought he would die in the ring. His brother Joe would call me at 5 pm the day of his fights, They're gonna kill my brother. Joe would drive to Atlantic City the day of the fight at the last minute. He said, I told Arthur you can't fight like this. You're not even 60%. Arthur said, I'm not even 50%."
"The Mayweather fight - he had no business being in that fight. They're lucky he didn't kill himself. Every time he lost a fight it was like a knife in the back, it killed him. Then they would get him another fight to build him up. His last fight with Alfonso Gomez - you could see the condition he was in was terrible. I found out from Cotto's cutman Miguel Diaz if Arthur won that fight they were going to put him in with Cotto next. How could you do that?"
"Arthur, for the last years he fought, was a shell of himself. He would always try to stop, try to be normal, a father, husband, regular guy, but the drugs, the pills would make him very paranoid. He would cry. He would hug me. He told me nobody loves me. He told me his breakfast was four Percocets. And he would just go to go go bars. He had no structure to his life. He was always drinking, doing drugs, always out."
"The mother of his daughter (Sophia), Erica, came here after he passed away and she said, I knew something was wrong, you couldn't stay in the house with him for 24 hours. And he was always going into the bathroom. There's something wrong with him. She went to see Pat Lynch with her dad, and told him, Your fighter is on drugs. But he'd brush her off. Nobody would ever do anything, they didn't want to stop the gravy train. I understand. Pat's business - Curtain Call - was selling tickets."
"To call a fight off would have been bad for him. That was more important to him than calling the fight off. If they called a fight off maybe Arthur would still be here to see his son."
"But what was important was to make millions. Every time he fought they brought him closer to his death. The destruction cycle just continued."
"He was so obsessed with killing himself and dying and being with his father who died when he was 45. He told me many times he wanted to die. One time Arthur came in around one AM and stayed till four in the afternoon the next day. He stayed all those hours, no drinking, doing no drugs, telling us that we will never see him again. He was saying it to all of us, me, Manny, Nunzio, Fernando (workers at the Ringside Lounge), myself. He said goodbye to everybody."
"He said he had the gun but no bullets. He said he wanted me to get him a bullet, I know you have bullets. I said no. I know if I gave him the bullet he was going to kill himself. He said every time I try to kill myself, meaning OD, they always brought me back. I'm too strong. By blowing my brains, that's it, I'll never come back. That's how obsessed he was that time I got really scared, I called Tyson. I told Mike about what happened, that he's really going to do it. If I should call the Commission, the network. Mike told me yes and he also said, 'But nobody cares about the fighter.'"
"Then I called the Commission again. And I went to see Pat again. I think Pat said he has a problem with his girlfriend or baby momma and he was okay already and he won't kill himself. That day Arthur made a Will, he said to give my watch to my brother Fabrizio. I want all my posters on the wall and then put my belts here (on display at the Ringside Lounge in Jersey City, NJ - the USBA and IBF belts of Gatti are on a wall display). The first trophy Arthur ever won is here. He beat a fighter trained by Howard Davis from Newark. He won the Ricky McQuade Award Fight of the Night May 3, 1991. Then he turned pro after that fight."
"One of the last fights that I was in the dressing room for Ruelas in Atlantic City. And he was completely out on his feet. I walked with him from the ring to the dressing room. He's walking with his hood on. Head down. I asked him why would you fight flat-footed with Ruelas, you know he's a puncher? The guy's a killer. He said, Mario, look at my face. He said to look at his face to see if it's distorted. He got hit so hard he thought his face was distorted. I told him, No you're face is okay."
"He was never able to get away from Pat Lynch, Main Events. And they always tell you how great a job they did, how much money he made. Their main focus was the millions, the sellouts but they knew there was a big problem with the fighter."
"But him being a true gladiator, he never refused a fight, he would have fought King Kong or Mike Tyson, anybody. If you don’t stop him, he’d never stop himself. This is why he fought right to the end. This is why fighters have to have somebody with him, a father, a family, but Arthur didn’t have that. He didn't have anybody to protect him. They kept me away. They kept his brother Joe away. They had him all to themselves. The fighter needs someone that cares about the fighter first. They never stopped or postponed any of the fights. Sometimes they couldn’t find him at training camps, he would disappear. They’d find him and put him back in the ring."
"Like Mike Tyson said, I felt like a Volkswagen Bug inside but I looked like a Rolls Royce on the outside. With the De La Hoya fight Arthur said he never hurt me to the head but he killed me to the body. When you don’t take care of yourself, when you are doing drugs and drinking alcohol, you can't take those shots to the body. He said I wasn’t even 50%. But despite all the problems they did the fights for the money. This is why he’s in the box."
"Mario, what I'm telling you I want you to tell everybody."
RIP Arturo Gatti.