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Judge to decide fate of Arturo Gatti's fortune as Montreal civil trial ends

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MONTREAL - The two sides battling for Arturo Gatti's fortune have returned to their respective corners as a judge begins to deliberate who will get the hotly contested money.

The civil trial pitting the late boxing champion's widow against his mother and brother in a bitter dispute over two wills with different beneficiaries wrapped up in Montreal on Thursday.

At stake: as much as $3.4 million, although that amount has probably continued to dwindle in recent weeks.

Gatti, a popular Canadian pugilist nicknamed "Thunder" who could withstand severe punishment in the ring, was found dead of an apparent suicide at a Brazilian resort in 2009. He was 37.

The trial, which began in early September, featured many glancing blows between both sides but no knockout punch.

Amanda Rodrigues, Gatti's Brazilian-born widow, argued throughout the proceedings she should inherit the estate because of a 2009 will signed in Montreal three weeks before his death.

But the Gatti clan countered that with claims Rodrigues pressured the boxer into signing the 2009 will and should be declared unworthy of inheritance.

Rodrigues' lawyer said the family didn't prove that in court.

"There's not an ounce of proof in anything that was presented before the court that would represent reprehensible behaviour on the part of Amanda Rodrigues,'' lawyer Pierre-Hugues Fortin said outside the courtroom.

''Therefore, she should not be declared unfit to inherit.

"We came here to plead the case and my client's position is crystal clear — the estate should go to her in its entirety."

Gatti's mother, Ida, and brother, Fabrizio, say a 2007 will signed in New Jersey reflects the boxer's true wishes. But they haven't been able to find a signed copy and allege Rodrigues, 25, is behind its disappearance.

The family has said it doesn't want any money for itself but is keen for the estate to be split between Gatti's two children — Sofia, a daughter from a previous relationship, and Arturo Jr., his son with Rodrigues.

"The Gatti family has told you from the beginning that it's not a question of money,'' family lawyer Carmine Mercadante said outside court.

''They believe what they believe. It was always a question of principle: they feel Arturo would have never signed that kind of will."

Before taking the case under advisement, Superior Court Justice Claudine Roy asked the lawyers how the estate should be divided if both wills are deemed invalid.

Roy did not mention when she expected to rule, but joked to lawyers not to expect a decision Friday. She will have to go over the testimony of 30 witnesses and consider jurisprudence.

By law, she has six months to render a decision.

The trial was overshadowed at times by events outside the Montreal courtroom.

Just days into the proceedings, a probe into Gatti's death concluded he had been killed. That inquiry was paid for by his former manager, Pat Lynch.

Brazilian authorities said following the report they'd take a second look at the case.

Then a wrongful-death suit was launched in New Jersey by Erika Rivera, the mother of Gatti's daughter. That froze Gatti's liquid assets. Rivera later joined the Montreal case as a plaintiff with the Gatti family.

Meanwhile, three television documentaries aired in the United States and Canada exploring the boxer's death. Those projects depicted the boxer as highly depressed and potentially suicidal.

Gatti's family does not accept the conclusion of Brazilian authorities that he committed suicide. Results of a second autopsy conducted in Quebec have not yet been released.

Roy said during the trial the boxer's fortune had dwindled to about $3.4 million, but that the money is being eaten up by various legal attacks on the estate.

She urged both sides to try to settle but negotiations failed.

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