Ten-Count for Carmen Basilio

By Robert Ecksel on November 7, 2012
Ten-Count for Carmen Basilio
"I gave them action. They loved to see action. I moved in on fighters all the time.”

“I can’t concentrate on golf or bowling. Those bowling pins aren’t going to hurt me. I can concentrate in the ring because someone is trying to kill me.”—Carmen Basilio

The legendary Carmen Basilio passed away today at the age of 85.

I spoke with his wife Josephine on Monday, the second time we talked in ten days. I hoped to speak with Carmen. I knew he wasn’t well. She told me as much. He had been hospitalized recently and made it through rehab, which was a good sign. And while he was home when Josephine and I spoke two days ago, she said now is not the time, that maybe he’ll be feeling better Wednesday.

Carmen Basilio was a boxing legend. Nicknamed “The Upstate Onion Farmer,” he was born in Canastota, New York on April 2, 1927. A quintessential tough guy, he turned pro on November 24, 1948 with a KO3 over Jimmy Evans at Kalurah Temple in Binghamton, New York. Five days later he stopped Bruce Walters in one round, and went on to win two more fights in December to round off a very good year.

That rate of activity in unthinkable today. But Basilio’s early career, despite his exploding out of the gate, was spotty, which speaks volumes about our modern-day obsession with perfect records.

Basilio went 19-3-2 in his first 24 fights, all of them New York State, including a 10-round decision over former welterweight champion Lew Jenkins. Nowadays boxers with 24 fights are champions or fighting for titles. But that was then and this now. It was a different world, and in many ways boxing was a different sport.

Basilio lost seven of his next 18 fights. Carmen’s competition was improving, he lost to 33-0-2 Chuck Davey and 97-8-8 Billy Graham in 1952, but so were his skills.

In 1953 Basilio defeated former lightweight champion Ike Williams, who was 121-20-3 at the time, and avenged his loss to Billy Graham. On October 18, 1953, Basilio got his first shot at the welterweight title against 94-13-4 Kid Gavilan. Although he lost that fight by split decision, Basilio was on his way and was recognized as a force of nature to be reckoned with.

Basilio went undefeated in eight bouts in 1954, going 7-0-1 with 2 knockouts.

He got his second shot at the welterweight crown, this time successfully, on June 10, 1955 when he stopped Tony DeMarco with a TKO12. He also won the middleweight title from Sugar Ray Robinson in 1957.

With an aggressive, charging, no-holds-barred style, Basilio was as adored by fans as he was feared by other fighters. “I gave them action,” he told the Associated Press in 2007. “They loved to see action. I moved in on fighters all the time.” His wins over Lew Jenkins, Ike Williams, Billy Graham, Gil Turner, Art Aragon, Gaspar Ortega, Don Jordan, Sugar Ray Robinson and Gene Fullmer, among others, established him as one of the greatest, and one of the toughest, fighters in the history of the fight game.

When he retired in 1961, bowed but unbroken, Basilio’s record was 56-16-7 (27 KOs).

He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990 and was the warrior’s warrior until the very end.

They don’t make ‘em like Carmen Basilio anymore.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Carmen Basilio vs Kid Gavilan (Full Fight)

Carmen Basilio vs Tony DeMarco I Part 1

Carmen Basilio vs Tony DeMarco I Part 2

Carmen Basilio vs Tony DeMarco II (Fight of the Year 1955)

Carmen Basilio | Sugar Ray Robinson I 1/2

Carmen Basilio | Sugar Ray Robinson I 2/2

Documentry - Fighting the Mob - Carmen Basilio 1/5

Documentry - Fighting the Mob - Carmen Basilio 2/5

Documentry - Fighting the Mob - Carmen Basilio 3/5

Documentry - Fighting the Mob - Carmen Basilio 4/5

Documentry - Fighting the Mob - Carmen Basilio 5/5

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  1. Tex Hassler 05:11pm, 11/08/2012

    Basilio was an example of a fighter with a ton of heart, toughness to spare and real man. I agree with what Mike Casey said he was a “magnificent champion” and put up some truly great fights. Just his toughness and no quit attitude helped him beat fighters who were better boxers and more skilled than Mr. Basilio. I am not sure we will ever see another fight like him.

  2. FrankinDallas 03:08pm, 11/08/2012

    RIP Carmen.

    My wife is from Syracuse…her family loved the guy. Her brother had a bulldog they named Carmen.

  3. The Pinoy Pikey 09:27am, 11/08/2012

    RIP Carmen!

  4. jofre 08:44am, 11/08/2012

    What a FIGHTER. May he RIP!

  5. Joe 05:07am, 11/08/2012

    True Champion; and Tough Guy!!! RIP

  6. the thresher 05:00pm, 11/07/2012

    Semper Fi

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo (aka) Gimpel 04:31pm, 11/07/2012

    Robert Ecksel-“I moved in on fighters all the time”...this is how onion farmers from upstate NY simply say it when they really mean that they took names and kicked asses…my goodness he was simply great…may he rest in peace.

  8. Mike Casey 03:22pm, 11/07/2012

    Magnificent champion.

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