In the dead of summer on August 14, the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut, hosted a Welterweight bout between Arturo “Thunder” Gatti (29-4, 24 KOs) and Reyes Munoz (21-3, 9 KOs).
A sizable and excited crowd poured into the Foxwoods to witness the return of the blood and guts warrior. The year was 1999.
This was a comeback fight for Gatti after a disastrous 1998. After piling up 23 straight wins, Gatti, 27, had suffered three losses in three incredible wars.
The first was to Angel Manfredy, followed by back-to-back losses to Ivan Robinson.
After eight months away, Gatti was taking no chances with tonight’s opponent.
Gatti, the former Junior Lightweight champion, tipped the scales at the weigh in at 139 pounds. By fight night, just 36 hours later, he had added 21 pounds and entered the ring weighing 160.
Although Munoz, 30, had won five of his last six fights, accompanied by a no contest, his list of opponents was largely unrecognizable.
He could best be described as anonymous. Munoz did not have the punching power to hurt Gatti and would have to rely on out-slicking and out-boxing the sports favorite warrior.
Munoz’s weight gain was a bit more subdued having added an extra five pounds since the weigh in.
Ring announcer Mark Beiro introduced referee Eddie Cotton and then the fighters.
The bout was broadcast live on HBO Boxing After Dark with Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Roy Jones Jr. seated ringside to call the action. A scheduled 10 round non-title fight, the bell sounded to begin Round 1.
Merchant quickly weighed in himself on Gatti’s ability to box rather than engage in an all-out war. “The real questions about Gatti’s comeback are going to be whether he can learn to control some of his aggression.”
Gatti, wearing his trademark white trunks with light blue trim, fervently leaped at Munoz. Having been out of the ring so long he was eager to get things rolling and had all the pistons firing early.
Munoz, sporting black trunks with orange trim, looked to avoid standing directly in front of Gatti. With knees bent and flicking a light left jab, Munoz moved laterally, circling backward and away from Thunder.
Gatti, clearly stronger and faster, was outclassing Munoz in the early exchanges.
His size and skill level was quickly evident. Jones saw the strength Gatti possessed in controlling the action. “He hasn’t lost any of his punching power,” said Jones.
As the first round came down the stretch, Gatti reached back and unloaded his signature left hook. The punch landed high on the temple, clipping Munoz’s right ear.
While Munoz was trying to duck and weave to no avail, the punch had landed cleanly and sent him sprawling to the canvas.
The crowd whipped up as Lampley saw Munoz crumble.
[otw_shortcode_quote border=”bordered” border_style=”bordered”]
Down goes Reyes Munoz on a left hook! Munoz bleeding from the nose, swelling from the left eye, wobbling around the ring, and Eddie Cotton calls it!
— Jim Lampley[/otw_shortcode_quote]
Shades of Trevor Berbick raced through the minds of boxing fans as Munoz began a dipsey-doo that sent him reeling around the ring.
Cotton halted the bout waving his arms high above his head while trying to chase down the staggering Munoz.
Ring doctors quickly entered to check on his condition. Within moments, Munoz was flat on his back and on a stretcher as paramedics had now entered the ring.
The loss ended Munoz’s career. Gatti had many bouts and numerous wars remaining in him. On this night, he was restored and back as a force in the ring. And boxing fans loved him for it.