Montrealers mourn Gatti

MATHIEU TURBIDE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:43 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Hundreds were expected, but thousands showed up in the end.

Parents, friends, boxers, fans and ordinary Montrealers: They all came yesterday to pay their respects before the remains of Arturo Gatti.

There was already a long waiting line stretched out in front of the funeral home in North Montreal as the visitation began in the early afternoon. Gatti's family, represented by his mother, his brothers and his sisters, accepted the condolences of more than 5,000 people until 10 p.m. last night.

Nearly the whole site had been given over to the event, with one room featuring large-screen TVs playing footage of the fighter's greatest moments in the ring. The main room with Gatti's remains filled up with thousands of bouquets and flower arrangements piled high against the walls. One enormous arrangement positioned over the coffin read

"Thunder", the champ's nickname, framed by a pair of boxing gloves and one of his champion belts.

Dressed in black, Gatti's mother, Ida, accepted condolences a few feet from a picture of her son.

The visitors included several well-known names from the boxing world, including many friends from New Jersey and New York, where Gatti had lived for 17 years.

"I'm not surprised to see so many people," said his close friend Pat Lynch, who worked as his manager during his whole career and whose youngest daughter had the boxer as her godfather. "Everyone loved him. He's a great guy. Arturo would have done anything for anyone. The world lost a really special person."

Lynch admitted the past few days have been "a real nightmare."

Professional boxer Joachim Alcine called Gatti a role model.

"I just remember his smile," he said.

"He was a happy man. We lost a champion."

The funeral service is today at 11 a.m. at the Notre-Dame-de-la-Defense church in the city's Little Italy.


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