Arturo's success was instantaneous. He followed his third-round TKO of Jose Gonzalez with a 19-second knockout of Luis Melendez. "My first right put Melendez to sleep," Gatti recalls. "He's still sleeping, I think."
Gatti went on to win 26 of his next 27 fights—13 in Round 1—and earned the nickname Thunder, along with flattering comparisons to such reckless crowd-pleasers as Rocky Marciano and Carmen Basilio. Thunderclaps reverberated even after Gatti lost three straight bouts in 1998: to Angel Manfredy on cuts in the eighth round, and to Ivan Robinson in a pair of breathtaking battles that went the distance. "Everybody wrote Arturo off," Lynch says. "He'd been in too many wars."
Yet Gatti stopped his next three opponents—all within two rounds. In his last armed conflict, on Sept. 8, Gatti outlasted Joe Hutchinson despite suffering a brutal head-butt-induced gash in Round 2 that shut his left eye and another head-butt over the right eye in Round 3, pooling both eyes with blood. "I'd been boxing so long, I knew he had to be out there somewhere," Gatti says of Hutchinson. "Anyway, I'm at my best when I see red."