Ringside keeps the flame for a dead champion and a troubled sport

Front of the building, facing 1&9

My continuing quest to understand the death of my favorite boxer recently led me to Jersey City, the adopted hometown of Arturo Gatti, and a bar stool in Ringside pub. 

I’ve wanted to go to Ringside for years after hearing vague stories about how Gatti used to train there. I’d also heard that the bar attracts a rather tough crowd, and it’s in a relatively out of the way location, right next to the highway on Route 1&9. But I was driving a friend back to Jersey City on Sunday night a few weeks ago, and being that we’re both boxing fans, we decided to stop for a beer in Gatti’s honor.

Unlike when I drove by the day of Gatti’s death, it was easily apparent that the bar was keeping a vigil, with signs hanging to commemorate Jersey City’s favorite son. When we went in, there were only a handful of people drinking and glancing at the Yankees-Red Sox game.

The truly incredible part of Ringside was its collection of boxing memorabilia. There were posters from nearly every big fight Gatti ever had, and plenty of Mike Tyson stuff as well. We struck up a conversation with bartender Kevin, who told us that the owner of Ringside had been friends with Tyson and with a lot of area boxers, and that Tyson still stops by when he’s in town.

Of course, I had to ask to see the infamous ring where Gatti apparently first began sculpting his legendary career. Kevin said that it was locked away next door and that the owner of the place was the one with the key, so hopefully he’s there next time so we can see where it all started and picture him throwing punches there. (Even in sparring, I’d imagine Arturo took more punches than he delivered)

Sitting in Ringside, you almost felt as if you had been transported back in time to an era in which boxing truly mattered. Though there were only about a half-dozen people who came through while we were there, one could close their eyes and imagine the scene during a Gatti fight, when Kevin said the bar was filled with Jersey City residents cheering for their second son. Though Gatti’s big fights took place about two hours south, you could definitely see home base being Ringside.

As the sport continues to lose its faithful, nostalgia has become the main thing to hold on to for those of us who love it. Stepping into Ringside brought me back to the better days of boxing, when people would cram into a dusty but fascinating pub to see Tyson or Gatti fight, rather than pulling on an Affliction shirt, taking some creatine and hitting a “Buffalo Wild Wings” for UFC.

I’ve always thought there to be a certain romance and glamour to boxing that doesn’t exist in other sports, but that it’s often plowed under by the nonsense that prevails. Ringside is a good way to remind oneself of the purity of the sweet science. In addition, I hear the Portuguese cuisine is quite good, though I can’t testify to that first-hand. I highly endorse a visit for any fan of boxing or bars with a lot of history behind them.

I personally plan to watch a fight there at some point. It won’t be the same as seeing a Gatti fight there, but I can’t think of a better place to watch boxing.

Here is a map, and you can get directions from that site.

Side of the building

Esoteric

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