“Arturo Gatti—The Thunder Up Above” by Mark Workman (guest blogger)

Long time readers, especially those who know me as an admitted ‘non-sports fan,’ are probably a bit perplexed to see a boxing photo on this blog. Allow me to explain….

For some time now, I’ve been planning to open this forum to an occasional ‘guest blogger.’ There are several reasons for this.

First and foremost, it is a thrill to share someone else’s work that you feel deserves to be read, especially when that someone is an ‘emerging voice,’ not likely to be encountered by your own readers. Second, it is fun to add to the literary palate of this blog by adding an occasional post that- while not written by me- reflects the standards I shoot for in my own writing and goes places that only a very different type of writer and personality could venture into. Lastly (and in all honesty): what a great way to keep the blog active while giving oneself a break from writing a whole new post. 😉

In all seriousness, I just hadn’t found the right piece or the right person to kick things off until now. But with ‘Arturo Gatti—The Thunder Up Above’ I believe I’ve found the right piece and the right guest blogger.

Mark Workman does not mince words. As a lighting director, tour manager and veteran of many a metal tour (a short list of credits includes Testament, Slayer, Megadeth and Machine Head), he has long been the instigator of many a tour quote and anecdote. Having shared buses and dressing rooms with Mark since our first tour together in 1988, I’ve long found him to be someone of exceptional character, especially in the music world – the rare person who says what he means and does what he says he’s going to do. Mark will tell a band what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. He’s also a constant source of dark comedy with an acerbic wit and abrasive humor. While he occasionally causes shock and insult, he always keeps things from getting boring.

Reading this, it is easy to imagine what if might have happened if Charles Bukowski or Hunter S. Thompson had been a fight fan who spent his life as a member of the road crew, doing lights for word’s fastest heavy metal bands. And just as a great fight movie like ‘Rocky,’ or ‘The Fighter’ reaches out like a left hook and draws in viewers who are not necessarily fans of boxing, the same can be said of “Arturo Gatti—The Thunder Up Above.” Enjoy! – AS

ARTURO GATTI—THE THUNDER UP ABOVE by Mark Workman

On June 11, 2005 I looked on in sadness as I witnessed the end of a career that I had followed intensely for twenty years. A few too many drinks in me, I sat down after the fight and poured my despair into my computer. Early the next morning, I woke up and found “Iron Mike Tyson—The Death of a Killing Machine” on my laptop screen.

Extremely hung over, I proceeded to read an article that I had little recollection of writing. I sat there staring at my computer screen wondering if the legendary “Iron” Mike Tyson had truly quit on his stool against the unknown journeyman, Kevin McBride.

The fight was also a blur to me.

The writing had been smeared on the arena walls for years but many of us refused to even try to decipher it. We didn’t want to see it end. But the crystal floor beneath Iron Mike’s throne had been cracking for a long time.

Then it finally collapsed.

Was the legend vanquished for the final time? I had to go online and read the news at BoxingScene to see if it was actually true.

It was over.

Then it hit me like a Mack truck running down mangy stray dogs on the highway: I had actually been drunk enough to send “Iron Mike Tyson—The Death of a Killing Machine” to many of the top boxing news sites.

Drunken delusions of grandeur.

I began to wonder if I could have a straight razor, cyanide and a thick rope delivered from the local liquor store with another bottle of fine French vodka. A noble end, I felt at the time. The wave of embarrassment drowned me like a roaring tsunami. I poured another stiff drink hoping to end my humiliation and stop the incessant throbbing of the alien organism dying on my shoulders: my aching head.

That drink made E.T. call home but he didn’t get off my shoulders and fly away.

I quickly signed into my email account worried that I had also done a “drink-and-email” to my ex- wife and old girlfriends, offering useless advice and other things that they didn’t need or desire. But to my complete and utter shock there was an email from BoxingScene, among others, asking me to submit more articles. I immediately wondered if they loved French vodka as much as I did. Crazy.

Perplexed, I sobered up immediately, wondering what I had done. I didn’t know how to write but I loved boxing, the noblest sport in the world.

The next big fight was Floyd Mayweather versus the blood and guts warrior, Arturo “Thunder” Gatti. Frightened to death, I devoured two pots of coffee, a bowl of canned chili drowned in hot sauce and a grilled cheese sandwich. Then I wrote “Arturo Gatti—The Last Warhorse.” Writing without the detriment of another extraterrestrial crash landing painfully on my shoulders, I surprised myself with something readable.

My battered head started to feel better.

I loved Arturo Gatti. He stood tall on my personal boxing pedestal alongside Mike Tyson and Tommy Morrison, new-era fighters that I admired because they gave the fans all they had even when they had little left to give.

A few days after I submitted “Arturo Gatti—The Last Warhorse” to BoxingScene, I went online to read boxing news and was super-stunned to see it on BoxingScene and Fox Sports. I thought I was tipsy again but I was still in the evil grips of abstinence.

I went on to write two dozen features for BoxingScene that included “60’s Thad Spencer—Battered From Grace” and “Tommy Morrison—Still Walking Tall,” both articles based upon interviews that I conducted with the two fighters.

Those audio tapes will be in my casket when I’m finally buried one day.

After “Tommy Morrison—Still Walking Tall” ran on BoxingScene and Fox Sports—and made national headlines—I seriously injured my back in an accident, spent a few months knocked out on painkillers and booze, in and out of the hospital, and lost my writing momentum. When I was finally able to stand up again, I went back on the road working as a road manager and lighting designer in the music business, my career for twenty-two years at the time.

Heavy metal never dies.

I was doing a show at the Knockout Festival in Krakow, Poland with the famous heavy metal band, Testament, when I received a phone call from my old friend, Camilo, in America telling me that Arturo Gatti had been found dead in a hotel suite in Porto de Galihnas, Brazil. I’ve never boxed before—well, not in an organized fashion—but that moment made me realize what it must be like for a fighter to get hit with a brutal body shot to the liver.

It hurt a lot.

Shocked, I walked aimlessly around the parking lot of the Wisla Hall in Krakow surrounded by luxury rock and roll tour buses and beautiful Polish girls trolling the backstage area, reaching deep into their sexy little wells for their best attempt at English trying to communicate enough to earn a backstage pass and do what they do. I couldn’t have cared less about their sweet music that night, and that’s saying something.

It was a bad night for me.

I sat down on a broken concrete parking lot, staring at a dark cloudy sky, slowly sipping a bottle of Jack Daniels, tears in my eyes, refusing to believe that another one of my legends had been beaten down once and for all. But this time it was not in the ring, it was in the worst manner imaginable: suicide.

Or was it murder?

I followed Arturo Gatti since he first began fighting on television years ago. I wouldn’t have missed a single fight for anything. If my firstborn—I don’t have kids—was delivered on the night of a Gatti fight, my ex-wife would’ve pushed and screamed in front of a television in the delivery room, my hand in hers and the other thrust in the air cheering that relentless, non-stoppable warrior on to victory or defeat. It didn’t matter which one. He gave his blood, guts, heart, soul and nearly his life in every fight he fought.

That was Arturo “Thunder” Gatti. There will never be another one like him.

Watching the episode of “48 Hours” about Arturo Gatti’s death, I saw the ugliness of what’s happened to this great fighter by his hand or others. And while all sides of his family fight over his fortune and attempt to find truth, peace and solace, I will never believe that Arturo killed himself. That wasn’t in his DNA. Arturo “Thunder” Gatti fought until the end. He always did.

But we often fight our demons in the dark. And in the darkness, the truth may forever hide.

We may never know how Arturo Gatti really died. But I find comfort in knowing that he’s up there above, training on a square ring of white clouds, waiting for his friend, “Irish” Micky Ward, to join him again one day and thrill the heavens with Gatti/Ward 4 and more.

The thunder up above.

-Mark Workman

www.markworkman.com
© 2011 Mark Workman

20 Responses to “Arturo Gatti—The Thunder Up Above” by Mark Workman (guest blogger)

    • Agreed. And after the flurry of activity surrounding last the previous post (on Lulu), I think we all agree it's time for a change of subject around here…

  1. good stuff. i was there in the dark with him and the Jack Daniels bottle. nice one mark and Alex. Would like to revisit his road stories with him also.

    • Hmmm, where do I know that name from? ; )  Yeah, we've heard Mark tell those stories brilliantly, now lets get him to write 'em down. Thanks, CB  (the 'Chief' has spoken)

  2. I need agree with your friend about Arturo: strange history… but this region also dont´s is cool… our police said that was suicide, but, why someone wanna suicide itself with a carrer ? There are several reasons to kill someone that have money and prestigious, and with some money, you buy the police here. easy, easy, easy.

    • Being from Brazil, you'd know better than us. One doesn't want to assume, but anyone who's visited knows there are some shady dealings. It's very sad, any way you look at it.

      • I prefer to say that you have differents “Brazils”, into the same Brazil, one for rich and other for poverty… Porto de Galinhas, as other touristic points here, is pretty, have nice food, sun, but also have your black side, with hookers, stalkers, etc… And the work of authorities is hide the dark side from foreigners. Arturo case not is a first and unfortunatly, will not be the last, as you say : One doesn't want to assume.

  3. Alex, you've thrown a nice hook here with Marks post, a good punch thrown with impassioned precision and skill that connects with solid strikes in this writing ring. Sports like music are so full of talented people, those full of life, supercharged human beings we connect with and make loyal, often emotional attachments to that deepen over time spent with them in their given arena of play.  Some loyalties can break though, as mine did when a certain hometown basketball player left and took his talents to Miami, a loss deeply felt and shared by many. I think some sports and teams push the ego and body beyond limits that can cause cracks and shatter life, and, who knows what contenders anyone may be fighting inside their own minds with game changing impact. Sports like Boxing is a great display of focused determination and perseverance, like life, requires effective skills sets to survive and stay on ones feet with limited damage. No one knows when that fatal blow will come but it sure helps to have the right loyal people in your corner to help you get back up after  knockdowns.  I'm sorry for the loss of Arturo, someone so strongly cherished by many and I pray for those left feeling the grief of his final round, especially having lost a boyfriend to suicide years ago, if that is the case, there is no greater punch to take you down.  May the Thunder from above bring you comfort and time bring you peace…..

    • What you say about sports is so true and sorry to hear of your loss.  While I've never been one of those die hard fans (to say the least), every now and then, I get drawn in by the human stories, and this is one such case. You don't have to follow sports news or stats to be affected by a story like this, one that is a real knock out punch.

  4. I am fighting the tears! Um this hits me right where i need it. Mark makes his imprint with words unfiltered – i can relate to darkness, and taking things to the grave, drinking and writing ahem ….Alex i find your website so over the top,its over the rainbow for me.i Love you. Thanks.

  5. An odd but nice post although I cannot understand how can Boxing be “the noblest sport in the world” as the author puts it. I find Boxing senseless and violent which in my opinion has got nothing to do with sports. Sport is supposed to be healthy and pleasant.

    • I'd imagine fans of more 'pleasant' sports (tennis, golf and cricket come to mind), rarely cross over into being boxing fans. It's a bit like musical tastes.  I can't really speak for how he puts things but there are those who agree with him and those who'd agree with you as well.

      • How on earth did you guess 2 of my favourite sports (tennis and cricket)?… I hate golf though, I consider it a pastime not a sport. But you're right, sports fan are as varied as music fans.

    • Sport is supposed to be healthy and pleasant- ? By definition Sport is competitive and requiring skill; natural atheletes that are in training can achieve goals like climbing Mount Everest, or flying a Mach 5-hardly healthy but– requiring great health to achieve the unpleasantness.  I beg to differ- traditional sports like baseball and football, and boxing isn't for the timid – playing any professional sport is exactly that- SPORT (-folly-we make fun of them its crazy) that's why we watch it how boring it would be if everyone was pleasant  -imagine Hockey?  There is nothing senseless when there is much to be learned from it, and self defense is not a joke. It doesn't mean you have to play it, but don't shame those who do.  We want to see who is not just tougher but smarter in the least comfortable situation.   We as humans overcome pain and run marathons, swim freezing channels and yes sail around the world. Alex you know playing the guitar required you to overcome pain, in your fingers and isn't always pleasant.  With all due respect to your friend Claudia i could not stay silent on this. 🙂
        Sport is as fun as you think it is, but I truly doubt anyone is doing their very best, or ever won a GOLD METAL in the OLYMPICS trying to be pleasant or comfortable.  Is playing the Pit a sport?

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