MONTREAL — Friends and boxing-world colleagues said goodbye to former fighter Arturo Gatti on Sunday, filing slowly passed the closed coffin that rested under one of the welterweight’s world championship belts, a pair of white boxing gloves and a massive wreath spelling out his nickname — ’Thunder’ — in red flowers.
In fact, every wall in the north end Montreal funeral home was covered from floor-to-ceiling in elaborate flower arrangements from fans and well-wishers. Bouquets surrounded a photograph of the former boxing champion flashing his trademark winning smile.
It was that wide grin that family and friends evoked when asked about recent media reports that Gatti may have taken his own life.
“There’s no way in hell he was going to commit suicide, never in a million years,” said Gatti’s brother-in-law Rocco Crispoe.
“Why would he want to commit suicide? Multi-millionaire, have everything to live for, nephews, brothers, sisters, just retired.”
Crispoe says the family is broken-hearted and wants justice in Gatti’s killing.
“That’s what he deserves, justice. He didn’t die in vain and he certainly didn’t kill himself like the papers said.”
Gatti was found dead just over a week ago in the apartment he was renting with his wife Amanda Rodrigues in a Brazilian seaside resort. She is being held by Brazilian police on accusations that she strangled her husband with her purse strap as he drunkenly slept.
No charges have been laid against her. She maintains her innocence and is being held in a prison in Recife.
According to Brazilian law, police have until this Wednesday to hand over their findings to prosecutors, who will decide if charges are to be filed.
Meanwhile, a Brazilian newspaper reported Saturday that an autopsy performed on Gatti indicates he may have committed suicide.
Retired fighter Howard Grant vehemently denied any possibility that his friend may have taken his own life, criticizing the rumours as an insult to the family.
“The only place Arturo would like to die is in the boxing ring,” he said. “He’s gone but he’ll never be forgotten. Words can not explain what he’s done for the boxing industry in the last 10 years.”
Boxing referee Gerry Bolen, who has known the Gatti family for over 30 years, described Gatti as a man with a big heart who always took time for his fans.
“He was a good fighter, he was good to people, never dirtied the game, never gave a black eye to the game,” Bolen said.
“The guy did so much for boxing. How could you forget him?”
He said he also doubts media reports on the former welterweight’s possible suicide.
“It’s hard for me to believe that. The truth will come out one day, it will come out soon.”
Otis Grant, who trained alongside Gatti in Montreal, was also hesitant to accept the suicide rumours.
“I heard he was having a hard time making the transition from being a retired fighter to civilian life,” he said.
“But I don’t believe it. I don’t buy it. I’m just sad for the family and sad to be here today.”
Despite the controversy surrounding Gatti’s death, many say they will remember the fighter for his love of life and courage in the ring.
Professional boxer Joachim Alcine called Gatti a role model and recalled him visiting his gym after one championship win.
“I just remember his smile,” he said. “He was a happy man. We lost a champion.”
The funeral service was to be held this morning in Montreal.