Family, friends say goodbye to Gatti

7/19/2009 - Boxing

MONTREAL -- Arturo Gatti's closed coffin rested Sunday under one of his championship belts, a pair of white boxing gloves and a massive wreath spelling out his nickname -- 'Thunder' -- in red flowers.

Every wall in the funeral home was covered in elaborate flower arrangements. Bouquets surrounded a photograph of the former welterweight champion, flashing a winning smile.

A day after a Brazilian newspaper reported that an autopsy left the cause of Gatti's death inconclusive, leaving open the possibility of suicide, family, friends and colleagues waited in line to file past the coffin and pay respect to Gatti.

"Why would he want to commit suicide? Multimillionaire, have everything to live for, nephews, brothers, sisters, just retired," Gatti's brother-in-law Rocco Crispoe, before entering the funeral home for the daylong visitation.

The funeral service was to be held Monday morning in Montreal.

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, accused of strangling her husband with her purse strap as he drunkenly slept.

No charges have been filed 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.

At the funeral home, 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."

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."