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Foul Play with Boxer Arturo Gatti

Former Champion Found Dead at Age 37 

Arturo Gatti1

By Rafael, ESPN (With contributions from The Associated Press) & Swaim, AMAM

07/11/2009: SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

Former boxing champion Arturo Gatti, one of the most exciting fighters of his generation, was found dead in a hotel room in the posh seaside resort of Porto de Galihnas, located in northern Brazil.

Police investigator Edilson Alves announced that the body of the former Junior Welterweight Champ was discovered in his hotel room, where Gatti had arrived on Friday with his Brazilian wife Amanda and infant son. Alves said police were still investigating and it was yet unclear how the 37-year-old Canadian died.

"It is still too early to say anything concrete, although it is all very strange," Alves said.

Foul play is suspected in the death, investigators reported.

A spokeswoman for the state public safety department said Gatti's wife and son were unhurt. "There were no bullet or stab wounds on his body, but police did find blood stains on the floor," she said.

Brazilian boxer and four-time World Champion Acelino "Popo" Freitas told the G1 Web site of Brazil's largest television network (Globo) that he was a close friend of Gatti and his wife, and that he "knew they were having some sort of problem and were about to separate, but I didn't know they were in Brazil."

Gatti's wife was detained as a suspect by Brazilian authorities on Sunday following his death at the exclusive resort where they stayed.

Police said 23-year-old Amanda Rodrigues was taken into custody after contradictions in her initial interrogation.

The former boxing champion was apparently strangled with the strap of a purse, which was found at the scene with bloodstains, said Milena Saraiva, a spokeswoman for the Pernambuco state civil police. She told The Associated Press that Gatti also had a visible head injury.

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The investigation was not complete, but Saraiva said authorities were preparing to present a formal accusation against Rodrigues, who continually denied being involved in her husband's death.

Police said Rodrigues could not explain how she spent nearly 10 hours in the room without noticing that Gatti was already dead.

The couple's 1-year-old son, who was unhurt, was with Rodrigues' sister, Saraiva said.

Police investigated witness reports that the couple fought and Gatti was drunk when he returned to his room Friday night, Saraiva said, adding that police were told that the pair was extremely jealous of each other and that he constantly complained of her clothing when she traveled to Brazil.

Francisco Assis, a local police investigator, told G1 that Gatti could have died up to eight hours before his body was found early Saturday.

Foul Play…?

Associated Press Writers Bradley Brooks and Tales Azzoni contributed to this portion of the report.

An ongoing Brazilian police investigation has finally determined that the death of boxer Arturo Gatti was a suicide and a court has ordered the release of his wife, once suspected of killing him, officials said.

Lead investigator Paulo Alberes told authorities that they found Gatti had indeed killed himself on July 11, 2009 in the hotel room where he and his wife along with their young son were staying. Alberes said, “Yes.” He offered no other details, but said he would hold a news conference later in the day.

A day after Gatti was found dead, police reported that his 23-year-old Brazilian wife, Amanda Rodrigues, had strangled him with her purse strap as he drunkenly slept.

Rodrigues immediately proclaimed, “I’m innocent and I know that this will be proven in a few days.” Police began to back off the accusation about a week later after a coroner’s report said that Gatti may have killed himself as he was found hanged and suspended. Rodrigues’ lawyer said at the time that proved his client’s innocence because she could not have physically lifted Gatti.

A spokeswoman for the Pernambuco state court in the city of Recife confirmed that judge Ildete Verissimo de Lima ordered the release of Rodrigues, as the investigation determined that she “excludes the possibility of murder.”

“The victim … committed suicide by hanging,” Lima’s ruling read, referring to the police investigation findings.

Gatti’s family and friends in his adopted hometown of Montreal have continually denied the accusation that the boxer could have ever killed himself.

“Nobody believes whatsoever that there’s even a one percent chance of a suicide. He lived life to the fullest,” Ivano Scarpa, a close Gatti family friend, said at the boxer’s July 20 funeral service in Canada.

…Or suicide?

Gatti's Fight Career

Gatti won two world titles in his 16-year pro career. In 1995, he won his first one, out-pointing Tracy Harris Patterson to claim the IBF Junior Lightweight Title.

Well-remembered is the Arturo Gatti versus Tracy Harris Patterson bout of 1995. Known for his straightforward punching and granite-like chin, Gatti truly captured the attention of boxing fans that day, when he defeated Patterson in Atlantic City. Gatti boxed beautifully against Patterson and won his first title.

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Fans also remember the polite and humble guy that was always professional and made time for an in-ring post-fight interview whether he won OR lost. And of course Arturo will always be remembered the blood and guts he displayed as a true warrior in the ring who left everything he had in there.

Gatti (40-9, 31 KOs), nicknamed "Thunder", was best known for his all-action style, which was epitomized in his classic trilogy with Micky Ward in 2002 and 2003.

It's why Gatti was a fixture at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., where he drew huge crowds and fought many times, including the final nine fights of his career.

In his first fight after the Ward trilogy, he captured a world title in his second division, by decision against Gianluca Branco for the vacant WBC Junior Welterweight title in January 2004.

Gatti made two defenses before losing the title to Floyd Mayweather Jr. via sixth-round TKO in June 2005. He returned to defeat Thomas Damgaard, but lost his final two bouts, a ninth-round TKO in a challenge to then-welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir in July 2006, followed by a one-sided beating from former "Contender" star Alfonso Gomez in July 2007.

Gatti-Delahoya

In the dressing room following the seventh-round knockout loss to Gomez, Gatti announced his retirement.

Referee Randy Neumann said it was tough for him to end that fight, simply because of Gatti's incredible ability to come back in fights.

"I couldn't stop that fight, simply because he was Arturo Gatti," Neumann said. "He was much more dignified to go out that way. He had to be counted out. When he fought, you never knew if he could come back. He looked beaten and still came back."

With that loss, Gatti acknowledged the end of all his travails and triumphs.

"I remember walking away from his last fight, and somebody walked up to him in the casino late at night and congratulated him," Duva said. "And he said, 'Why did he congratulate me?' And I said, 'He was excited to meet you.' And he kind of looked very surprised by that.

"He had no idea what an icon he was or how much he meant to people."

The 37-year-old Gatti, whose epic trilogy with Micky Ward branded him one of the most exciting fighters of his generation, retired in 2007 with a career record of 40-9 and 31 knockouts.

More than his titles, Gatti will be remembered for the slugfests. He was half of the Ring magazine fight of the year four times for two the Ward fights as well as his 1997 fifth-round knockout of Gabriel Ruelas to retain the junior lightweight title and a 1998 decision loss to Ivan Robinson.

Gatti had two memorable battles with Robinson as well as dramatic fights with Wilson Rodriguez, Angel Manfredy and Calvin Grove, all before the trilogy with Ward, that defined his career.

"His entire boxing career he fought with us, we've known him since he was 17," promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events told The Associated Press. "It's just an unspeakable tragedy. I can't even find words. It's a horror."

Gatti was a staple of HBO's boxing broadcasts, appearing on the network 21 times.

"HBO Sports is tremendously saddened by the passing of Arturo Gatti," HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg said. "He was one of the legendary warriors in boxing, and his three epic battles with Micky Ward will live on in sport's history. All of us at HBO Sports will miss his warm and friendly presence, and our deepest sympathy goes out to his manager Pat Lynch, promoter Main Events, led by Kathy Duva, and the entire Arturo Gatti family. Boxing has lost a great and humble man."

Gatti had been working in real estate in Montreal following his retirement, but still attended fights, as he did in April for the Timothy Bradley-Kendall Holt Junior Welterweight unification bout at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

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