How did boxer Arturo Gatti die?

Murder or suicide? "48 Hours" investigates controversy surrounding death of the world championship fighter

Produced by Doug Longhini and Josh Yager

(CBS News) - To look at them together it's clear: Amanda Gatti lives for her 3-year-old boy, Arturo Jr.

"He's everything I asked God for," Amanda told "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Erin Moriarty. "Junior makes me complete."

In no small part, she says, because he's the spitting image of his father... a man they're both learning to live without.

"The smile is the same...just like his daddy," she said. "I miss my husband very much. I miss him when I go to sleep...I miss him when I wake up..."

Video: Amanda on her love for her son

It's a loss made all the more difficult by the shadow of suspicion that surrounds Amanda.

In July 2009, Amanda was arrested for murder and held before investigators shocked the world with their findings: Arturo Gatti, world class fighter who never gave up in the ring, had committed suicide.

"Yes, I knew. I knew. I knew," Amanda said in broken English. "My husband kill himself. Oh my God, my husband killed himself."

But even today, more than two years after Arturo's death, many of his friends, family and fans refuse to believe he took his own life.

By late 2006, Arturo Gatti had been crowned welterweight champion and amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune when, Amanda Rodrigues, then a struggling Brazilian immigrant, says they met walking dogs near his home in New Jersey.

She says she had no idea who he was. "I remember when I find out he was a fighter, I told him ... 'Oh... I thought you was even a movie star...but not a fighter...because he was so cute...'"

"Arturo was special. ...There was nobody like him," according to Tom Casino, a boxing photographer who had met Arturo years earlier -- soon after the fighter moved down from Montreal. "He looked like this little peanut."

But Arturo, then just 19, already had his eye on the prize.

"Did you have any idea the kind of fighter he'd become?" Moriarty asked Casino.

"No, not a clue," he said. "Not, until I saw him fight."

That happened a few months later in an amateur fight where 19-year-old Arturo took on a much older, more seasoned fighter.

"The guy couldn't hit him... and he's pot-shotting the guy and then hitting him like BANG," Casino explained. "He won and I was like 'Wow.' ...I've never seen anything like it. ...I knew this guy was gonna be a champ."

Arturo Gatti became just that -- bobbing, weaving and punching his way to three world titles.

He won 40 fights - 31 by knockout. His relentlessness in the ring made Arturo a crowd favorite. And he partied outside the ring as hard as he fought in it.

"I would get calls that Arturo did something crazy," Casino told Moriarty. "Everybody that I met in the tri-state area had a party story with Arturo Gatti."

But it was his rivalry with one man that really made him a legend. "Irish" Micky Ward became a household name when actor Mark Wahlberg made a movie, "The Fighter," about Ward's life.

"I had three amazing fights with Arturo Gatti and in doing that became a very good friend..." he said.

Video: Mark Wahlberg on "The Fighter: 2" and the Gatti/Ward friendship

The Ward-Gatti trilogy would become the stuff of boxing lore. Ward won the first fight; Gatti took the second.

"He caught me in the ear and I stumbled into the corner like this," Ward demonstrated in the ring for Moriarty, "and I went boom!"

And in their final bout, Gatti stunned the crowd by winning - with a broken hand.

"Gatti...it's just the poster boy of courage and heart," said Casino.

The battles Gatti fought with Ward brought out the best in both of them.

"It showed that two guys, we can actually try to fight, win and that we respected each other," said Ward.

Video: Micky Ward on his relationship with Gatti
Video: Reporter Robin Fisher on covering Gatti

Gatti showed that respect after the third fight when a battered Ward was being examined by an emergency room doctor.

"And he opens up the curtain and says, 'We got someone here who wants to say hi to ya.' The next bed over is Arturo...he's laying there, he was getting stitched up also I believe," recalled Ward.

"Well you put him there," noted Moriarty.

"Right, and he put me there. And the first thing outta his mouth, he says, 'Micky, you OK?' And that showed me...what a kid! What a guy."

It would be the start of an extraordinary friendship.

Which is why, to this day, Micky Ward can't believe Arturo could have killed himself. "I just can't see him taking his own life," he told Moriarty. "That's just not him! ...Everything in life was going good for him."

In 2006, after almost two decades in the ring, Arturo met Amanda. In less than a year, he sat her down, popped a bottle of champagne... "And then he just asked me if I would marry him. ...I think it was one of the most beautiful moments in my life," she said.

Moriarty asked Amanda, "Did you ever see him fight?"

"I only saw his last fight," she replied.

In July 2007, Gatti, now 35 and plagued by injuries, faces a much younger Alfonso Gomez. It would be Arturo's last professional fight.

"And I remember that...he was so sad...And he says, 'Baby, I wanted you to be the champion's wife." And I said, 'Baby, you're always gonna be my champion.'"

Despite his newfound love, retirement from boxing would hit Arturo Gatti hard.

According to Casino, "He partied like he fought... hard and heavy."

"48 Hours Mystery" reveals the truth about a man boxing the darkest shadows... and headed for a fall.

"I knew if he continued drinking something bad was gonna happen," Casino said. "...it was inevitable."

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