Gatti's funeral includes standing ovation

MONTREAL -- Arturo Gatti was remembered as a big-hearted, star fighter at his funeral Monday, drawing a standing ovation from mourners when his mother received a championship belt from the World Boxing Council.

More than 1,000 mourners packed Notre Dame de la Defense church in the heart of Montreal's Italian community to pay respects to the 37-year-old boxer who was found dead July 11 at a Brazilian resort.

"He had the same personality when he was boxing in the ring, and in his life he gave it his all," said Canadian boxing promoter and former national boxing coach Yvon Michel, who has known Gatti for 30 years.

Gatti's wife, Amanda Rodrigues, is being held as the prime suspect. She has been accused, but not charged, of strangling her husband with a purse strap as he slept.

A coroner's report last weekend in Brazil indicates Gatti died of asphyxiation after his body was "suspended and hanged," opening the possibility he may have committed suicide, authorities said.

"Nobody believes whatsoever that there's even a one percent chance of a suicide. He lived life to the fullest," said Ivano Scarpa, a close family friend who spoke during the funeral service.

Gatti lived in Montreal with his wife and family. Scarpa said family and friends are suspicious of Rodrigues, adding the couple had a tumultuous relationship.

Gatti retired in 2007 with a 40-9 record and two world titles in his 16-year professional career.

"We never knew he would be such a great fighter. I was always happy to see his success, to see him walk in the gym a boy and become a great man," said a letter from former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. The letter was sent to Gatti's family and read by family friend Mario Costa.

When his mother, Ida Gatti, received the posthumous championship belt in the fighter's honor, mourners stood and applauded.

"I don't think we'll see another fighter like this," boxing trainer Howard Grant said. "You have to go back to the old days and guys like Rocky Graziano or Jake La Motta."