One of the most exciting fighters of all time, Arturo “Thunder” Gatti has fought his way to become one of boxing’s most recognizable names. Perhaps most well-known for his trilogy with “Irish” Mickey Ward, Gatti participated in Ring Magazine.s “Fight of the Year” three years in a row, 1996, 1997 and 1998.
Born April 15, 1972, in Italy, Gatti turned pro in 1991 just after turning down a chance to compete for the Canadian National Team in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Gatti scored a knockout in his first professional fight as he took care of Jose Gonzalez in the third round. From there, it didn’t take Gatti long to thrust himself into the title picture.
On December 15, 1995, Gatti was able to call himself a world champion for the first time as he became the IBF Jr. Lightweight Champion when he narrowly beat Tracy Harris Patterson by decision.
Gatti only defended that title once in 1996, but the fight was memorable as Gatti showed the toughness and perseverance that made him champion. After a third-round knockout that made it hard to see out of his right eye, Gatti knocked out Wilson Rodriguez in the sixth round at Madison Square Garden in the bout that would be the first of his overall five “fight of the year” honors.
The 1997 “Fight of the Year” was even tougher for Gatti to come out on top, but again Gatti showed his will to hang on to his championship. Rocked by a left uppercut in the fourth round by former world champion Gabriel Ruelas, Gatti absorbed more than 15 consecutive punches before being saved by the bell. In the fifth, he connected on a left hook to drop Ruelas and end the fight.
After relinquishing his title to move up a weight class, Gatti laid low for a few years before he took boxing’s center stage again as he began his classic trilogy with Mickey Ward. The first two fights went to decision with each man winning one, setting up the memorable third bout.
While Gatti-Ward I earned Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year” honors for 2001, the 2003 fight not only earned “fight of the year” honors but could have been one of the greatest fights ever. Gatti, who broke his right hand in the fourth round and fought virtually one-handed for the rest of the night recovered from a sixth-round knockdown to defeat Ward by decision.
Gatti announced his retirement in 2007. In 2012, Gatti was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.