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Arturo Gatti murder speculation swirls amid dispute over fortune

Even as he settled the final details of his will, former star boxer Arturo Gatti and his Brazilian wife betrayed the joy and torture of their short marriage.

One minute, they were a loving young couple in front of Montreal notary Bruce Moidel, writing up their final testaments, as any good parent with some money might do just before a big romantic overseas getaway. Mr. Gatti was a recently retired world champ, beloved in boxing circles, who made millions on an unrivalled ability to absorb a beating and outlast an opponent.

The next moment in that notary's office, Amanda Rodrigues was the jealous wife, hinting at the inevitability of Mr. Gatti betraying her. Mr. Gatti responded with a typically emotional outburst: If it ever happens, he said, "I'll give you a million dollars."

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So an unusual contract was struck, Mr. Moidel testified Tuesday at a Montreal civil trial judging a dispute over Mr. Gatti's will, and his millions, between his widow and the rest of his family.

Mr. Moidel drafted a side deal, alongside the last will and testament of the couple: Should Mr. Gatti ever cheat on Ms. Rodrigues, the former welterweight champ would hand over a million dollars.

The will signing, Mr. Moidel testified, "was a normal, typical meeting for a young couple about to fly off and leave a baby behind with family. They said they were going on a second honeymoon, and they were very excited." The million-bucks-for-infidelity was another matter. "I've never seen that before. It was their idea," said Mr. Moidel, who became a notary in 1958. The couple told the notary they planned to go to Europe.

One month later, on July 11, 2009, Mr. Gatti, 37, was found hanging by a purse strap in a luxury hotel room in Porto de Galinhas, Brazil. Ms. Rodrigues and the couple's infant son, Arturo Jr., were in the same hotel suite and the couple had earlier engaged in one of their frequent fights.

Ms. Rodrigues, 25, initially fell under suspicion, but was later cleared by Brazilian authorities, who ruled Mr. Gatti's death a suicide. Along with disputing the validity of the will, Mr. Gatti's friends, family and fans have never accepted the official account of his death.

Many in the fraternity of boxing writers noted Mr. Gatti's temper and trouble with booze, his occasional propensity to break into tears, his generosity and tempestuous love life. His widow says he suffered from depression.

His friends countered he was just too determined and courageous to kill himself. A month before he died, he told a notary to erase "retired professional boxer" from the profession line in his will. "I'm a builder," he told Mr. Moidel, referring to some new real-estate ventures.

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While the civil trial lumbers on, a private investigator will release a report Tuesday denouncing the Brazilian investigation as botched and incomplete.

The Chicago-based investigator, Paul Ciolino, has concluded Mr. Gatti's death was a murder and promises to name names when the report is released in Mr. Gatti's old stomping grounds, a gym in North Bergen, N.J.

Mr. Ciolino said he and his partner dedicated nearly 11 months to their investigation, interviewed 75 witnesses and brought in a half-dozen high-profile experts in criminal profiling, crime-scene investigation and forensic medicine, among other fields.

Brazilian authorities, in contrast, wrapped up their probe in a couple days and failed to take DNA samples and fingerprints.

"The Brazilian investigation left a lot to be desired. Maybe it's economics, maybe it's because they don't know better, maybe it's because they have 4000 homicides a year and Arturo Gatti is not an important person there," Mr. Ciolino said.

He recounted how hotel managers instructed staff to tell police that Mr. Gatti was clinging to life in order to elicit a prompt response.

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"If they tell the cops he's dead, the locals know the cops will tell them to leave the AC on, lock the door, and they'll see you in a couple days," Mr. Ciolino said. "These guys are overwhelmed with homicides."

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About the Author
National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More

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