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.
© 2011 Mark Workman