Status: Former Welterweight and Middleweight champion.
DOB: April 2, 1927 In: Canastota, New York
Childhood Heroes: “Jimmy Braddock, Joe Di Maggio, Joe Louis, Willie Pep.”
Childhood Dream: “To fight for the world championship in Yankee Stadium and win. It came true in 1957 against Ray Robinson. Ain’t too many boys who can say their dream came true.”
Early Boxing Memory: “Naturally, my first pro fight, which I won by knockout over Jimmy Evans, November 24, 1948.”
Pre-Fight Feeling: “Nothing in particular. I wasn’t a worrier. I knew I came in good shape. Guys who thought about it all day, worrying, were burnt out by the time they came. In the dressing room I’d sleep. Some guys try to stare you down in the ring before the fight stars. When Sugar Ray Robinson tried to stare me down, I looked at him for a while and then I broke out in a big laugh. He didn’t like it. He figured he was going to scare me.”
Greatest Sports Moment: “Winning the world championship…what could be better than that?”
Most Painful Moment: The night in 1956 when they stole the welterweight title away from me against Johnny Saxton. It was a bum decision but it all turned out for the best in the long run. Six months later we fought a return and I knocked him out in the ninth round.”
Worst Injury: “The night Ray Robinson closed my left eye. The eyelid blew up in the sixth and I went the rest of the way with just one eye.”
Hardest Punchers: “Robinson, he was tall and had good leverage. Tony DeMarco – the only guy who ever staggered me.”
Toughest Opponent: “Gene Fullmer. He was very unorthodox, very strong and very durable.”
Underrated Boxer Of Your Era: “Bert Lytell. He was a southpaw middleweight who was too good for his own good and never got a title shot.”
Favorite Boxers: “I like this kid Julio Cesar Chavez. And Vinny Pazienza, he’s getting better as he gets older.”
Favorite Meal: “Just about everything…fish, Italian sausage, spaghetti, anything but steak.”
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “Vanilla or maple walnut.”
Favorite Movies: “Westerns.”
Favorite TV Shows: “Wheel of Fortune. I love it. You think I’m nuts but I love to see people make money.”
Favorite Vacation Spot: “Home…in my living room chair.”
Future Ambition: “Hey, I’m going to be 70 on my next birthday. All I want is to just live a nice life, be happy and be with my friends.”
Family: Wife, Josie, Golden Labrador Retriever, Champ.
Nicknames: The Onion Farmer, The Canastota Clouter.
(Note: This Biofile interview was conducted in 1996.)
Topics: Canastota New York, Carmen Basilio, Childhood Dream, Childhood Heroes, Gene Fullmer, Good Shape, Greatest Sports, Italian Sausage, Jimmy Braddock, Jimmy Evans, Joe Di Maggio, Julio Cesar Chavez, Painful Moment, Punchers, Sports Moment, Sugar Ray Robinson, Tony Demarco, Welterweight Title, Willie Pep, Yankee Stadium