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Ring Warriors Forever

7/13/2009 4:44 PM

The sport of boxing recently lost two great warriors in Arturo Gatti and Alexis Arguello — two champions who died too young and reportedly met violent ends after making names for themselves in the often brutal sport that they chose as a profession.

Often referred to as “the human highlight film,” the 37-year old Gatti who was allegedly strangled to death Saturday in Brazil  — gave boxing fans their money’s worth every time he stepped into the ring. He might not have had the speed and finesse of Floyd Mayweather or the box office appeal of Oscar De La Hoya — both of whom Gatti fought during his illustrious 16-year career — but no fighter during his era brought more heart and passion into the ring.

The two-time world champion was a guaranteed ratings draw for HBO during an exciting decade-long run between the mid 1990s and mid 2000s because he was a fight fan’s fighter — he never backed down from an opponent and fought all three minutes of every round. His classic trilogy against “Irish” Mickey Ward in the early 2000s ranks among the most exciting fights ever in boxing.

(Updated: HBO Sports will air the Gatti-Ward trilogy on HBO2 July 17 at 9 p.m. and on HBO July 18 beginning at 10:15 a.m. The three fights will also be available on HBO On Demand July 20 – Aug. 16.)

Gatti retired in 2007 — probably a few years and several wars later than he should have due to deteriorating skills. Nevertheless he remains one of the most revered and respected fighters in the game.

The championship run of Arguello’s nearly 30-year boxing career came before cable’s dominance of televised boxing, but undoubtedly the Hall of Fame fighter would have been a major pay-per-view and premium network draw.

Ranked in the top 20 of Ring Magazine’s top 100 greatest punchers of all time, Arguello won championships in the featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight champions during the 1970s and 1980s with a relentless and often fierce attack that wore opponents down before knocking them out.

As one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in boxing during the 1980s, the Nicaraguan-born Arguello fought several memorable fights, including a crushing knockout of then popular fighter Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini and two brutal losses to co-Hall of Fame boxer Aaron Pryor.

But there was much more to the 57-year old Arguello than just boxing. Arguello would eventually enjoy a post-fight political career in his native Nicaragua, and was serving as mayor of the nation’s capital city Managua when he died July 1 from an allegedly self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Both Gatti and Arguello had their personal shortcomings outside the ring, but between the ropes they fought honorably and their contributions to the sport will never be forgotten.