Josh Nagel’s blog

July 18, 2009

Boxers Gatti, Corrales counted out too soon

Filed under: entertainment,Sports — jnagelreno @ 7:36 pm
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There’s an old saying that suggests, to some degree, that our lifestyles ultimately will determine our “deathstyles.”

Rest in peace, Arturo Gatti and Diego Corrales.

Amid this bizarre recent barrage of celebrity and sports-figure deaths, the murder of Gatti in a Brazilian hotel room under mysterious circumstances seemed to grab only the back page of last weekend’s headlines.

What a shame because, if you’re a fight fan, you know Gatti deserves to be honored with one last 10-count, in a ring unobstructed by other sports news for a moment.

It’s also too bad because, if you follow the fight game, it’s a sick reality that we somehow saw this day coming sooner than later for “Thunder” Gatti. We just didn’t know it would come so soon.

As with “Chico” Corrales, who died in a motorcycle wreck two years ago at age 29, the 37-year-old Gatti stayed in the ring well past his prime, but got counted out in the game of life before his prime even started. The tragedy is that he and Corrales seemed to take pride in conducting their lives as recklessly outside the ring as they did inside it.

Such abandon is why we watched every time they laced up the gloves, and also why we watched their personal lives with that uneasy aura of a pending train wreck. You have to think the two would become fast friends and sparring partners if their paths cross in the afterlife.

Not that either boxer ever looked that far ahead.  

Gatti and Corrales were each former world champions but their boxing legacies will be cemented by the fact that they were champions of the people. Atlantic City boxing fans didn’t care if Gatti was, as his critics suggested, a blown-up club fighter with a more natural knack for drama inside the ring than a grasp of the sweet science.

Who could forget his memorable trilogy with his personal punching bag Micky Ward, that made-for-cable matchup that inevitably saw Gatti, both eyes shut and blood pouring down his face, get off the canvas to pound Ward into oblivion. Commentator Jim Lampley, for all his flaws, could get any boxing fan’s heart racing when he announced, “Arturo Gatti is bloody and beaten … but he just won’t quit!”

Corrales was noted for his epic battles with Joel Casamayor and a classic tilt with Jose Luis Castillo in May 2005 that might well still be the fight of this decade. Corrales came back form two devastating knockdowns in the 10th round to stop Castillo in one of the most thrilling 3-minute bursts in the sport’s history.

Both men faded toward the end of their careers, losing their high-profile fights and the big paydays that came with them. This wasn’t unexpected, but it was still sad, because you tuned into watch Gatti and Corrales always hoping they would win. Nor did it affect their legacies, at least in the hearts of fight fans. The type of courage each displayed bred an unusual sense of loyalty from strangers everywhere.

This isn’t to say either man was without flaws. Corrales served 14 months in prison earlier this decade for beating his pregnant girlfriend, and had a blood-alcohol level of .25 when he fatally wrecked his Suzuki sport bike in suburban Las Vegas.

In March, Gatti was charged with assaulting the woman who is now accused of his murder. Amanda Rodrigues, 23, has been charged with the slaying of Gatti, whom authorities say was found strangled with a purse strap in the apartment they shared.

The circumstances – or what we know of them – make you wonder how perhaps the toughest man to ever set foot inside a boxing ring somehow lost a fight against a petite woman yielding a purse as her weapon of choice.

However, many facets of the lives of Gatti and Corrales don’t seem to make a lot of sense. But when they set foot in the ring, all was right in the lives of both the boxers and of those who admired them.

This is how they need to be remembered.

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