The Case for Arturo Gatti in the Hall

By Ted Sares on October 19, 2011
The Case for Arturo Gatti in the Hall
Gatti participated in The Ring’s Fight of the Year an astounding four times. (Robert Ecksel)

Gatti had the charisma of Jerry Quarry and the excitement of Bobby Chacon, Matthew Saad Muhammad, and Danny “Little Red” Lopez…

Fourth in a Series of Five

“There’s only one way you can lick [Tony] Zale—you gotta kill him.”—Rocky Graziano

“The proof is in the pudding when I get in the ring.”— Carl “The Cat” Thompson

“I hear the cheers when I need to hear them. It feels good to know my fans are still behind me.”—Arturo Gatti

“Mr. Excitement”

Danny “Little Red” Lopez was “Mr. Excitement.” He was never in a dull fight, and was most dangerous if he had been decked—which was often. Soft-spoken and humble, he was ferocious and unrelenting once the bell rang. In an era in which fights were regularly seen free on non-cable television, he was one of the greatest of the television fighters and his name guaranteed big ratings. Danny was a volume puncher who worked to set up his knockout blow which he could deliver with either hand. His fights often turned into melodramas in which he overcame knockdowns, severe punishment, and adversity to score sudden and spectacular knockouts. In this regard, he was like Matthew Saad Muhammad. He was a “Gatti before Gatti.” He would get off the canvas and roar back. Turning predator, he would hunt down and take out his opponent in savage fashion. He was heavy-handed, which belied his skinny appearance, and if he connected flush, it usually spelled the end. In 1979, Lopez KO’d Mike Ayala in the 15th round in what was The Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year.

Like fellow Californian Bobby Chacon, Little Red connected with his fans in an electric way. The roars started as soon as he was seen coming down the aisle with his Native American headdress on and didn’t stop until he left the ring—usually a winner. And like Chacon, he left boxing with a reputation of being one of the most exciting fighters to toil in the square circle. Lopez was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame at age 35, the youngest man ever elected. He is now in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. One thing is certain: he was always the perennial crowd favorite and his legacy is forever secure with aficionados.

“Miracle Matthew”

Matthew Saad Muhammad was another who was extremely popular and connected with his fans in a special way. His action-oriented style guaranteed that almost every fight would be a thriller in which he would come back from the precipice to put his opening away. His rematch with another great fan-favorite, Yaqui Lopez, was one for the ages as Saad was hit with 20 unanswered hard blows in round eight, but he recovered to drop Lopez five times en route to a knockout win. It was The Ring magazine’s 1980 Fight of the Year.

Matthew Saad Muhammad’s signature was his ability to absorb punishment and then mount drama-filled comebacks. Indeed, he was nicknamed “Miracle Matthew,” but in retrospect, he could well have been nicknamed “Gatti before Gatti.” He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998.

For fans fortunate enough to have watched fights on Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the action provided by Danny Lopez and Matthew Saad Muhammad will never be forgotten. He too is in the IBHOF.

Arturo Gatti (1972-2009)

Most of what can be said or written about this exciting warrior has already been said (or is being said) and it is not my intention to add much except to point out that he shared something in common with Bobby Chacon, Little Red, Miracle Matthew, and a few other special people. Gatti had the charisma of Jerry Quarry and the excitement of Chacon, Muhammad, and Little Red.

What made them special? Each was an all-out action fighter who possessed tremendous recuperative powers in the ring; each was known throughout his career for having unique connections with their adoring fans. In this regard, as soon as the crowd spotted “Thunder” with his old school-style white robe, they would start the roar that would follow him into the ring and chills would go down your spine. 

Maybe it was their propensity to take it to the brink each and every time out—to lay it all on the line without regard to their own well-being. Each participated in classics; heck, Gatti participated in The Ring’s Fight of the Year an astounding four times (1997, 1998, 2002, and 2003).  Arturo fought them all running up a 40-9 record. He met Leonard Dorin (22-0-1), Thomas Damgaard (37-0), Gianluca Branco (32-01)), and Joe Hutchinson (18-0-2). He also fought higher level guys like Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Ivan Robinson (twice), Tracy Harris Patterson (twice), Irish Mickey Ward in the great trilogy, and Calvin Grove.  In so doing, he demonstrated tremendous and immense heart, and that’s one of the most important things for boxing fans because boxers with heart never give up. They are ceaseless aggressors; oncoming warriors who will gladly absorb two or three punches just for the opportunity of landing one.

I know I have left many valiant warriors out, and I apologize for that, but in the end, only one enjoys the ultimate compliment of having another warrior being referred to as “Gatti before Gatti.”

Now I believe that honor will get him into the Hall upon his eligibility.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Arturo Gatti v Leonard Dorin

Arturo Gatti v Thomas Damgaard. part 1

Arturo Gatti v Thomas Damgaard. part 2

Arturo Gatti v Gianluca Branco. part 1

Arturo Gatti v Gianluca Branco. part 2

Arturo Gatti vs Joe Hutchinson (09-08-2000)

Arturo Gatti vs Ivan Robinson l -[1/5] Fight of the year 1998

Arturo Gatti vs Ivan Robinson l -[2/5] Fight of the year 1998

Arturo Gatti vs Ivan Robinson l -[3/5] Fight of the year 1998

Arturo Gatti vs Ivan Robinson l -[4/5] Fight of the year 1998

Arturo Gatti vs Ivan Robinson l -[5/5] Fight of the year 1998

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  1. the thresher 05:47am, 10/20/2012

    And Box, these posts should go on ,my latest thread so the others can get involved. Thanks.

  2. the thresher 05:46am, 10/20/2012

    Box, you need to remove your personal bias when you look at these guys. He only lost one fight. Barry M gets in, but the Prince doesn’t? I can see where you are coming from and agree that there may be a lot of guys who are more worthy. All I suggested is that he warrants attention. Nothing more, nothing less.

  3. Box me 05:37am, 10/20/2012

    With all due respect, WHO did Hamed fight and WHAT did he ever do to DESERVE all the accolades and respect he gets and money he’s made? IMO he fought 4 worthy opponents:Kelley,Ingle,McCullough,and Barerra. Of those 4 fighters,only one of them could be considered a great fighter and champion and worthy of the respect that Hamed himself gets but does not deserve, and that is Marco Antonio Barerra—-a truely great fighter—-in ANY way. Barerra whipped Hamed to the point that Hamed realized he had no business in a ring with an actual boxer who’s on the level. He basically retired Hamed. Hamed loses one and basically quits. He didnt quit on top, he never was on top. He was just a created hype. IMO the lowpoint of the history of the sport.

  4. the thresher 05:11am, 10/20/2012

    Come on Box. Why all the hate fo the Prince. Yes, he was a git, prat, and wanker, but he sure could fight in his own way.

    How can I win your respect back?

  5. Box me 04:52am, 10/20/2012

    I used to have respect for Ted Sares opinion….UNTIL….UNTIL…I just read him say that Naseem Hamed deserves serious consideration to be in the H.O.F.  Based…on…what? What a slap in the face to all the great warriors and skilled fighters who are in the Hall. Many of them are rolling in their graves.

  6. johnnyc 12:37pm, 08/01/2012

    The fights that might vault Gatti into such territory were ironically the same fights that probably caused his downfall. The man was a punching bag, and I personally believe, brain damaged. Taking punishment is not a reason to enter the Hall.

    In related news, the man looks 100 years old in the photo you used. Again, he existed to be beat in the head.

  7. The Thresher 04:13am, 10/29/2011

    mrbill has the beat

  8. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 12:54am, 10/24/2011


    Trinidad really was only special at 147…. He proved good too at 154 with his wins over “Reid and Vargas,” but after he clocked Joppy at 160, his luck ran dry against B-Hops…. He never did much after that 2001 TKO loss…... Trinidad will make the IBHOF, but 147 was where he excelled…..

  9. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 12:50am, 10/24/2011

    I like Gatti as much as anyone can, however, he did lose one too many big fights he needed to win….. But, if Ken Norton, Barry McGuigan, Ingo Johansson and Pipino Cuevas are in, why not vote in Gatti?

  10. The Thresher 03:01pm, 10/22/2011

    Gatti, Mohammad, Lopez, and Carl “The Cat” were all peas in the same pod. The thing that distingued them was that the could absord punishment, deplete the will of their opponents, and come back to win late. Katsisdis looked to be this type at one point, but he has absorbed too much punishment IMO.

  11. "Old Yank" Schneider 11:02am, 10/22/2011

    Trinidad a no-body at 147?  I’m pissing my pants!

  12. The Thresher 08:33am, 10/22/2011

    kenova, interesting observaions, mate.

  13. kenova 07:20am, 10/22/2011

    why do you guys even bring up trinidad or calzaghe? seriously who did they ever fight! hopkins or hoya! they were both made fighters. they fought a bunch of nobodies. and got lucky decisions. WIN OR LOSE Gatti unlike all most all fighters of today gave you your money’s worth. tito trinidad couldnt box his way out of a wet paper back. and calzaghe beat an old man big deal!

  14. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:22am, 10/21/2011

    Gatti is not in the same universe, never mind league, as Leonard, Trinidad and Calzaghe.

  15. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:18am, 10/21/2011

    NEWSFLASH—I just read an article TITLED—“The Case for Gatti in the Hall”.

  16. pugknows 08:20pm, 10/20/2011

    Ignore him, Ted. He is jealous plain and simple.

  17. Nopporn 07:21pm, 10/20/2011

    I love to see the fighter who was sent to sit on the canvas but then he could get up and did the same thing to his opponent (both in the same round or later round). Guys like Lopez, Leonard, Gatti, Trinidad, and Calzaghe always got up to keep fighting their opponents until the end. What a great chin!

  18. Nopporn 07:08pm, 10/20/2011

    No question about Gatti’s heart.  He never gave up easily in any fight. He was the kind of the fighter that was worth to watch. Boxing needs this type of fighter to give the fans a lot of fun and excitement. I fully support Gatti to be inducted to the HOF.

  19. The Thresher 02:07pm, 10/20/2011

    News flash, Gatti is not eleigible for another year. His last fight was in 2007.His death has absolutley no play in this, or did I somehow mention it my mistake? Same with Castro. Just because I tout someone doesn’t mean they are eligible per se.

  20. The Thresher 01:59pm, 10/20/2011

    Pug, excitability, excitability, and excitability

  21. "Old Yank" Schneider 11:24am, 10/20/2011

    The Thresher – Why you go to these places is beyond my grasp.  Disagreement?  Wearing thin?  C’mon man—you asked if Gatti is worthy and I expressed an opinion—I’ve got mixed emotions – that’s my opinion.  Do you HONESTLY believe that I’m the only fan with mixed emotions about Gatti’s worthiness for the Hall?  My view is not argumentative—it is an opinion that I bet a lot of fans share.  Or perhaps you believe that Gatti is a SLAM DUNK and no arguments to the contrary need apply!  Your question was apparently rhetorical and answered by yourself and inarguable.  You asked for opinion but really only wanted agreement?  Really?  C’mon man—give me a break!  Now let’s see if the list of wins you posted stands up:  Thomas Damgaard, Leonard Dorin, Gianluco Branco, Ivan Robinson, Tracy Patterson—these are all elite, Hall-bound fighters in your book?  This is the BEST collection of wins you can arrive at for Gatti?  My point is MADE by you!  Thank you!  There is PLENTY of room to question Gatti’s worthiness—PLENTY!  There is much to praise as well—a great trilogy with Ward; blood and guts courage; adoring fans; wildly fan friendly style; entertainment to spare; all in a contemporaneous backdrop of massive sympathy over a tragic death.  I personally think this is likely the wrong time and environment to be asking the question.  Nevertheless, I’VE GOT MIXED EMOTIONS.  That’s my response to your solicitation of opinions!

  22. pugknows 09:34am, 10/20/2011

    Ted, what were the major ingredients for you to go with Gatti? 9 losses are quite a bit

  23. pugknows 09:33am, 10/20/2011

    Nice short and sweet write up here, Ted. And I agree that Gatti should get in.  I am happy to see you are back again.

  24. The Thresher 09:00am, 10/20/2011

    And nobody knows more about Little Red than yours truly.

  25. The Thresher 08:48am, 10/20/2011

    No Yank, I think this is about going against what I have written on Gatti. You simply are disagreeing for the sake of it, and that really is beginning to wear thin.

    You don’t even know what you are talking about. Gatti beat Thomas Damgaard (37-0), iced Leonard Dorin (22-0), and beat Branco (32-0-1) all after his trilogy with Ward. Ivan Robinson was not “less than stellar.” Nor was Tracy Patterson (54-3-1). He retired Grove. Joey Gamache was 55-3 before he was retired. You need to get behind the numbers.

  26. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:01am, 10/20/2011

    Little Red held a title for 3 1/2 years before losing it to the GREAT Salvador Sanchez.  Gatti picked up his first major title off of the less than stunning Tracy Patterson and lost it 2 years later to Angel Manfredy – along the way he defended the title against the way-past-it Wilson Rodreguez, the 15-5 relative nobody Feliciano Correa, the past-it Calvin Grove and a STUNNING and GREAT successful defense against Gabriel Ruelas (perhaps the ONLY serious win in defense of his belt).  He then lost TWICE to the less than stellar Ivan Robinson and was already showing signs that his face-first style had taken its toll.  From his win over Ruelas, and this point forward, for the next TEN YEARS, Gatti would not win a single bout against an elite fighter for the remainder of his career. With all due respect, in terms of level of competition, I do not see a legitimate comparison between Danny “Little Red” Lopez and Arturo Gatti.

  27. TEX HASSLER 07:45am, 10/20/2011

    Gatti certainly was a very exciting fighter that gave his all in every fight. I have seen a number of his fights and he was never in a dull fight. I just wish there would have been a happy ending to Gatti’s life.

  28. "Old Yank" Schneider 07:45am, 10/20/2011

    I favor the highly skilled boxer-puncher over all others.  Other styles can range from technically boring chess players, to highly-entertaining brawling bruisers (and everything in between).  Sorry, but I just don’t see Gatti as possessing the highly-skilled style of a boxer-puncher that I favor.  All others fall short in my eyes—to each their own.  If filling seats and going platinum with what the public buys as entertainment was all it took, then Britney Spears should be in the musician’s hall of fame.  As I said, I’ve got mixed emotions about Gatti’s worthiness for the Hall.

  29. dollar bond 07:21am, 10/20/2011

    If Saad and Little Red are in, you CANNOT keep Gatti out.

  30. The Thresher 07:02am, 10/20/2011

    Thanks Mike

  31. mikecasey 06:44am, 10/20/2011

    Take some Scotch with you to Big Bear, Ted. I have been bravely trying to renounce this poison all my life - fortunately, I have never succeeded.

  32. The Thresher 06:42am, 10/20/2011

    “I still believe that if an ability to take punishment is
    your #1 attribute” Whose words are these/ Not mine.

  33. The Thresher 06:40am, 10/20/2011

    Even without the Ward triliogy, Gatti has an amazing history and legacy. But you put that on top and it seals the deal for me. As for comparing him to Ricky Hatton, no way in hell. Two different animals. Hatton was predictable. Gatti could take you out at any given time in a fight either going downstairs or upstairs. Gatti also could be a stylish fighter when he wanted to be.

    He just stayed on too long. But if we decided to eliminate those who could absorb punishment from the Hall, we had best start with Tony Zale, LaMotta, Graziano, etc, etc. Taking/absorbing punishement and then coming back to destroy your oppenent (whose will has already suffered greatly) has been a technique of many fighters over the years. Micky Ward is a great example.

  34. The Thresher 06:31am, 10/20/2011

    I’m back in the saddle again after a short but intense mano a mano bout with pneumonia. I was able to hold it off with long and punishing jabs of antihistamines. I then closed the gap and launched sharp hooks generated by chicken and tomato soup and tea. I finally cornered it and, after a nasty fire fight and body slam attempt (on me), put it away with a vicious combo of Advair and sleep, but my energy has been sapped. I plan to go to Big Bear to recuperate.

  35. "Old Yank" Schneider 06:30am, 10/20/2011

    Mike—Got it.  I still believe that if an ability to take punishment is your #1 attribute, it falls short of what my personal view of greatness in boxing is.  I must admit that I’ve got mixed feelings about Gatti’s worthiness for the Hall.

  36. The Thresher 06:00am, 10/20/2011

    Yeah. I was out for about 11 days. Lost almost 25 pounds. Hope to keep trhem off. Pnemonia sucks.

    Thanks, guys.

  37. mikecasey 04:48am, 10/20/2011

    Sorry, Yank, I should clarify my ‘bad for Art’ comment at the end - I meant ‘bad for Arturo’ in terms of taking unnececessary punishment. Does he belong in the HOF? A tough one for me. I think some years need to pass before we pass judgement on fighters who have only recently left the stage. Gatti was the Art Aragon of his day, if you will, and it all depends where the quality bar is drawn. Well, it’s dipped as low as Rocky Balboa and there’s the problem. There is now a case for saying, “Let ‘em all in.”

  38. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:36am, 10/20/2011

    Nice to have you back Ted.  I’ve got a Hatton-like issue with Gatti.  Both these fighters could entertain like few others in history.  The side of me that understands that ultimately boxing is entertainment, I can make a case for both in the Hall.  But I’m with Mike Casey on the “art” side of Gatti—from a skills perspective and craft perspective and “art” perspective he falls short—as does Hatton in my opinion.

  39. mikecasey 02:24am, 10/20/2011

    I loved watching Arturo, Ted. My only regret is that he got it in the ear when he briefly moved to a more conservative style. I think he could have gone a lot further if he had fully utilised his talent in this way. But like so many others today, he was pressured into playing to the thrill seekers. A man of his consummate skill should never have taken the punishment he did. Good for the box office - if we’re being ruthlessly honest about it - but bad for Art.

  40. mike schmidt 07:28pm, 10/19/2011

    Ted another great one. The number of Ring Fights of the Year is the slam dunk for me. It is after all the entertainment business and for that- yes sir induct the Thunder. Now, let me get back again to one of the all time great referee’s- go to boxrec and see his entire body of work along with just how good he has consistently been over the years including letting fighters fight, without being boring, on the inside and not making himself part of the show, just a great ref. NEXT YEAR SS SMOGER MUST CERTAINLY BE READY TO GET THAT BIG INDUCTION RING. SOMEBODY HELP ME OUT AND TAKE UP THE CAUSE. WHAT SAY YOU GREAT WRITER SARES?

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