By: Dr. Johnny Benjamin, Sports doctor, orthopedic surgeon
Life, despite its beauty, can be devastatingly cruel. First the world lost my acquaintance Steve McNair and now I’ve lost my dear friend Arturo. I know that no one is supposed to be here forever; we all knew that Arturo had been through far too many wars to live until 100 but I certainly never expected this.
Arturo was not complicated but he was definitely complex. What you saw is what you got. He had no pretense. There were just so many facets to him; so many layers. He was somewhere between sinner and saint. When he was good, which fortunately was the vast majority of the time; he could be generous to a fault but when he wanted to be bad…Look out.
He was intensely private and guarded; so there were not a lot of long, soul searching conversations. Since he wore his heart on his sleeve, those close to him saw glimpses deep within.
Arturo seemed to prefer volatility in his romantic life. A quiet, homebody need not apply as his potential love interest. Arturo’s mercurial personality demanded an opposite demure, stable counterpart but those types of characteristics did not seem to engage or maintain his interest; the sexy, hot blooded fieriness that he seemed to enjoy in a woman cut both ways.
Arturo certainly could be a wild child. I think that Arturo would invite me out to a night on the town just to watch me squirm since he already knew my answer. I could not hang with Arturo Gatti. I had a better chance surviving in the boxing ring with him than I did hitting the clubs, so why even embarrass myself? Early on, I went out with him once and I learned my lesson…never again.
But there was a quiet and gentle side to him as well.
I can still remember the joy and peace in his eyes when he introduced me to his infant baby girl, Sophia. He was such a proud and doting papa. I had never seen him look so at ease and fulfilled. Another facet of his personality had been revealed. Arturo was maturing and it fit him well.
We all wondered how Arturo would adjust to life after boxing. Fortunately, money would not be an issue because his trusted manager, Pat Lynch, made certain of that.
Fatherhood seemed to ground Arturo and with the addition of his son things seemed to be rounding out quite nicely. Since it was “normal” for his romantic relationships to be a “thrill ride” those occasional theatrics seemed hardly noteworthy.
Therefore, on Saturday evening when the caller initially said “Hey Doc, did you hear about Arturo” I was not particularly concerned. It wasn’t uncommon to receive humorous or outlandish updates on Arturo, some more accurate than others. He was dating a starlet. Arturo was on a reality TV show. He was going to make a comeback. Arturo just led the police on a high speed chase and it’s all over the news. It was always something. In fact, if you didn’t hear every so often about an Arturo sighting you may become a bit nervous.
This time was different…very, very different.
That was the essence of Arturo. He was just a complex and loving soul from Italy, by way of Montreal, fighting out of hard scrabble Jersey City. He wasn’t the biggest or the fastest. He didn’t have devastating knock out power. He didn’t have all of the answers. But he took what he had and became the best.
He was a regular guy with an enormous heart. He gave you everything he had both in the ring and as a friend.
And now he’s gone…forever.