Arturo Gatti is up for vote on this year's International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot, and there are a lot of well-written, well-reasoned, logical arguments on both sides. I'm not going to provide another one, to be quite honest.
Longtime Bad Left Hook readers will recall my stance every other year when these things come up, that I don't much care about Halls of Fame. Any of them. Not the IBHOF, not the Halls for baseball, the NFL, college football, the NBA, the NHL, the WWE, rock n' roll, or country music. But the debates seem to interest people, and this one interests me at least a little bit.
For me, it's all quite simple: Arturo Gatti is worth more than the Hall of Fame. His boxing career was more important than a Hall of Fame induction. And thus, in my roundabout way of not really caring who gets in and who doesn't, pleased as can be for those who do and disappointed for those who even might belong there but will never get the chance to stand at that podium and thank their fans and supporters and everyone else, I believe that Gatti clearly and truly belongs with the legends, immortalized as much as one really can be in this life.
Gatti wasn't a great fighter. I don't care about that. I could go over what he did, where he failed, where he would come up short if we were basing the Hall of Fame on greatness only, but no Hall of Fame is truly based on greatness alone -- not a single one of them. We don't need to adjust the goalposts to make an argument.
The argument for Gatti is what intrigues me, and it's greater than Fight of the Year awards given by a magazine, bigger than world title belts, bigger than being the legendary yin to the yang of the guy Mark Wahlberg played in an Oscar-nominated, big hit movie.
Boxing's popularity in the United States over the last 15 years or so has waned, and then it has plateaued. It is what it is: A marginalized niche sport. And what's left of the boxing fanbase over those last 15 years in the United States has a good portion soaked in Arturo Gatti's blood.
He made you care. He made you wince. He made you stand up and cheer and bang on your own chest, like you had anything to do with the spirit that kept pushing him on through unbelievable punishment, through eyes swollen shut and the flow of vital fluids streaming down his face.
There were times when it seemed he couldn't possibly continue, only he did. There were other times when he simply could not.
You really don't need to be told what Gatti did, because if you saw it, you'll never forget it.
There is no one good reason to vote someone into a Hall of Fame, in my view. If only the pure and true greatest got in, that would be one thing. If only the most celebrated or famous got in, that would be another. Gatti doesn't belong there for being a great fighter, or even just for being an old-fashioned star in a sport that was losing its old-fashioned ways all the time. He belongs there for being a gore-drenched beacon of light and hope.
Of all the fighters of his era, Gatti is one of the single most important, most beloved, and most memorable. And he did it through sheer fearlessness and determination. He did it with reckless abandon and too many jaw-dropping moments to count.
The way I see it, there is nothing in boxing really worth remembering or celebrating or immortalizing if not the career of Arturo Gatti. He was as true a fighter as ever laced them up and stepped into a squared circle. His credentials may not be found on his BoxRec page, but they are as legitimate as anything.
Arturo Gatti was an icon, an embodiment of all that was slipping away from the sport of boxing. The mark he left on the sport was greater than just being great. He was more than that. And he's a lot more than a checkbox on a Hall of Fame ballot.