Joey Gamache says he won his long fight with the New York State Athletic Commission. He won’t get a dime, but he’s satisfied.

A New York State Court of Claims judge said yes, the commissioners were negligent that afternoon more than 10 years ago when Arturo Gatti jumped on a scale and quickly jumped off. A visibly larger Gatti met Gamache in the ring at Madison Square Garden 24 hours later, knocking out the former world lightweight champ from Maine in the second round.

The brutality of the knockout stunned those at ringside and thousands of others watching the HBO broadcast. Gatti was said to be at least 15 pounds heavier. Gamache was later admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital in lower Manhattan with a concussion.

His career, at age 32, was all but over. He would climb into the ring again, but not against opponents in big fights with big paydays. Boxing fans have gone to the Internet to watch the two rounds over and over again and have railed at the injustice of a bigger man separating a smaller man from his senses.

Their anger and sympathy doesn’t pay Gamache’s bills or soothe his headaches. Neither will Judge Melvin Schweitzer’s ruling. Gamache receives nothing with a dollar sign attached. In essence, the judge concluded Gatti could have knocked out Gamache if their weights were the same.

“I was never attached to the money,” Gamache told Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News in a Saturday online story. “I wanted it to be known that the commission didn’t do things right, and we accomplished that. I wanted the truth to come out. In that sense, I thought it was a victory. Now, it’s time to move on.”

Gamache wore none of the trappings of a world champion fighter in the 1990s. A leather coat, maybe. No bling, no expensive car, no wild parties, no entourage that sucked on him for easy cash. He bought a farm, a modest camp on Sabattus Lake for his parents. He invested in more real estate on a modest scale.

He didn’t blame Gatti. Others should have stepped in to stop the deception and didn’t.

What happened between Gatti and Gamache in the ring was part of the fighters’ code. Gamache believed that.

“Joey is one of the more honorable people I know and ever will know,” said Johnny Bos, Gamache’s longtime matchmaker and manager. “Of course he’s going to say this isn’t about the money.”

Bos, the flamboyant character who lived in the shadow of the Empire State Building, left Manhattan for Clearwater, Fla., in 2008. He says he could no longer find work with fighters because he was too vocal in championing Gamache’s cause. He was a victim of the commission’s deceit, he says.

“Why did this take 10 years? So people would forget.”

Gamache had three different attorneys, and three judges heard the case along the way. When Gamache and Bos protested that Gatti wasn’t weighed in properly, they were ignored. “I was told to shut up,” said Bos.

He and Gamache could have pulled out of the fight that day. Later, Gamache could have dropped his lawsuit. The two had very little muscle outside the ring. They were small fish. But, says Bos, they were not quitters.

Gamache did not return a phone call Saturday night. He lives in New York City with his wife, Sissy. Gamache trains fighters, including his 26-year-old son, Stephen, who just turned pro.

In some ways, he’s just one more face among the millions trying to earn a living in the big city. In the small, tight community that is boxing, he may be more popular than ever. When he fought in Maine or elsewhere, he didn’t believe he was entitled to fame or respect. He expected to earn it.

He waited so many years for his day in court. He won’t get a dime but must pay this lawyer, as he did the other two. He won, he says. Time to move on.

He has never been a loser.

 

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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