Arturo Gatti was able to outmanoeuvre the most formidable opponents in the ring, but family members say they believe the boxer was ultimately taken down by a petite and jealous woman.
Several relatives of Mr. Gatti, the Canadian boxer slain at a Brazilian resort last Friday, say they suspect that his wife convinced the boxer to go to Brazil.
As Mr. Gatti's brother prepared to fly to Brazil last night to repatriate his body to Montreal, police have accused Mr. Gatti's wife, Brazilian Amanda Rodrigues, with the boxer's murder. They believe the 37-year-old was strangled with a purse strap while in a drunken slumber.
Ms. Rodrigues, 23, maintains her innocence and her lawyer says she's too "skinny" to kill Mr. Gatti, a former junior welterweight champion known as Thunder.
In interviews Monday, members of Mr. Gatti's family in Montreal, the city where the boxer grew up, say the couple had a volatile relationship and it wasn't unusual to hear Ms. Rodrigues threaten Mr. Gatti during their frequent spats.
Gerardo di Francesco, Mr. Gatti's stepfather, said he overheard the couple arguing outside his home last month. "I heard her say, 'I'll kill you one day, I'll kill you," Mr. di Francesco said.
Mr. Gatti had originally planned to fly off to his sister's wedding in Florida last Saturday. Instead, Ms. Rodrigues had convinced him to join her first in Brazil, and he switched his travel plans, according to Mr. di Francesco.
"His mother tried to find every way to stop him from going to Brazil. She was afraid something might happen to him," Mr. di Francesco said. "And look what happened. He fell into a trap."
On Saturday, only a few hours before Anna-Maria Gatti was to tie the knot, she received a phone call from Ms. Rodrigues in Brazil, who coldly told the bride that her brother was dead, according to family members. During the wedding ceremony, many guests were crying.
Another sibling, Fabrizio Gatti, was to fly to Brazil Monday night to identify his brother's body. He planned to meet Tuesday with Canadian consular officials in the city of Recife.
Fabrizio Gatti says he wants to fly his brother's body home to Montreal for a funeral by the end of the week. Custody of the couple's 10-month-old son, Arturo Jr., is also in question.
The baby, who was in the apartment at the time of the slaying, was unharmed and living with Ms. Rodrigues' family in Brazil.
"I'm going to bring the body back to Montreal - that's where he belongs - and I'm going to make sure that little boy comes back with him," Fabrizio Gatti said from Miami.
By all accounts, Arturo Gatti was devotedly attached to the boy, who had been baptized at Montreal's lavish Notre Dame Basilica. About a month ago, long-time friend Anthony Ferrandino spoke to Mr. Gatti as he played with Arturo Jr. in a Montreal park during an Italian festival.
"He loved that boy like it was his own Baby Jesus," Mr. Ferrandino said. "He never let him out of his sight. It was his pride and joy."
Family members say the couple also quarrelled over money. Giuseppina Gatti, another sister of Mr. Gatti's, had a confrontation with her sister-in-law late last year; they were neighbours in the same condominium in Montreal's St. Leonard district, where Mr. Gatti and his wife had lived in the penthouse.
Giuseppina Gatti says that she and Ms. Rodrigues argued about her marriage to Mr. Gatti -Ms. Rodrigues said she would benefit from her husband's money.
"She said to me, 'your brother will pay,' " Giuseppina Gatti recalled.
Authorities were told the couple was extremely jealous of each other and that Mr. Gatti constantly complained about his wife's clothing when she travelled to Brazil.
Ms. Rodrigues was taken into police custody in Brazil over the weekend and has been transferred to a women's prison in the state capital, Recife, according to news reports. Brazilian police say they believe Ms. Rodrigues acted alone as there was no sign anyone else had entered the couple's two-storey apartment at the luxury Porto de Galinhas resort in northeastern Brazil.
Police told the news agency AFP that Mr. Gatti was found in his underwear with signs of blows to his neck and face and a bloody purse strap nearby. A forensic examination determined the body had lain there eight hours before Ms. Rodrigues raised the alarm.