Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Monastic reunion in memory of Arturo Gatti, R.I.P.

We have here the entrepreneur and man about town Steve Fitzpatrick Smith, taking in Gatti vs. Ward #1 almost exactly one year ago at the inaugural Monastic Retreat.

Last summer - one year and one day before last night - the behavioral health executive and patron of the arts John Eiler and I organized The Monastic Retreat along the lines of an academic conference, with breakout sessions and panels presided over by local amateur experts.

For the Bloody Maries and Boxing Panel, we invited Steve Fitz Steve, the poet K. Curtis Lyle and the boxing writer and fighter trainer Glenn McBrady to present. For his contribution, Glenn read one of his Fighting Words columns from The St. Louis American and he screened the first fight (May 2002) between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward.

The panelists and cohosts were joined by fight fan and former fire chief Sherman George. It was a memorable morning. In a Monastic Retreat that also included a Michael Lynch art opening, a guitar circle, a poetry reading and a prayer breakfast, the boxing panel stood apart as possibly the most profound of our shared experiences.

When Gatti was killed recently, apparently stranged by his girlfriend while passed out drunk in Brazil, I thought back on our boxing panel and the amazement with which we all watched this epic struggle between these two fleet, indomitable boxers. I wanted to see the fight again, and the two other Gatti/Ward battles, in memory of the fallen fighter, and in the company of my fellow monks.

Which I mentioned to Steve Fitz Steve that he screen the trilogy at his place, The Royale, the thought had already occurred to him and the plan was in the works. It came to fruition last night. Remarkably, I was able to reconvene the entire boxing panel and audience from the Monastic Retreat: Steve, who was running the place; Glenn, who brought the fights; Curtis; Sherman; John; and myself.

It was another magical night, quiet magic, everyday magic, the stuff that keeps you going.

John brought some big bold Stone beers home from San Diego, and Steve let him pour tastes for the monks and others. We watched the relentless struggle between the two men, one who retired immediately after the third of their three battles, his vision blurred and one eardrum burst - that was Ward; the other, the pretty boy, who won two of the three, Gatti, who stayed in the game until, apparently, a girl sent him home to his final corner.

"Did you know that was one year and one day from tonight?" Glenn asked, when I pointed out to him that everyone from the Monastic retreat boxing panel had made it to see the trilogy.

One year and one day. A magical number.

A year and a day: I bet Arturo Gatti wished he could have had just one more year and a day.

It was weird to think of Micky Ward living on without him. Glenn said Ward works in road construction now, in his home state of Massachusetts. "He drives a steamroller." Arturo Gatti is in the ground, buried in Montreal - oddly, I was in Montreal when I heard the news of his death - and Micky Ward is driving a steamroller in Massachusetts.

Ring the bell.

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