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Wed Nov 7, 2012, 09:01 PM

RIP Carmen Basilio

Carmen Basilio, the onion farmer who won the welterweight and middleweight titles, died at the age of 85. Basilio’s greatest victory was over Sugar Ray Robinson, in a true “grudge match,” on September 23, 1957. His “official” record, according to the Ring Record Book, included 79 bouts between the years 1948 and 1961. He actually had more bouts than this.

Basilio’s first six professional bouts took place in Sherburne, Chenango County, NY. I learned about these, as my great uncle actually trained Carmen then, and promoted the cards they were on. This information, incidentally, has been verified through research in the local historical societies, which have the newspapers from that period. A couple of other future world champions would participate on these fight cards. Basilio spent time living with Uncle Pat (as would a heavyweight champion preparing to fight a young contender named Joe Louis).

I first met Carmen Basilio after winning the finals of a tournament in one of NY’s districts. He came up to the ringside after the bout, and we had a great talk. I assumed at that time that he was simply amazed at what I considered my remarkable talent -- being a teenager, I was more than full of myself. Looking back, I assume he watched a kid with the same curious name as his first trainer/promoter, who lived in the same general area where Carmen fought those early bouts.

A few years later, Carmen worked my oldest brother’s corner in his pro debut. And twice, I worked my brother-in-law’s corner when he fought Carmen’s last fighter, heavyweight Greg Sorrentino.

The International Boxing Hall of Fame is in Carmen’s home-town. Most years, during the induction ceremonies weekend, my sons and I would run into Carmen there. What a character! He was always telling jokes, and in a great mood -- unless someone brought up Ray Robinson’s name. Once, as a top-ten contender, Carmen had business in NYC. He had brought his wife with him, and they saw Ray on a street. They waited patiently for Ray to finish a conversation with a couple other people, and then Carmen introduced himself and his wife to Robinson. Ray, then a world champion, was rude. Carmen never forgot that, much less forgave Ray. (Even on an ESPN-Classic special on Sugar Ray, when commenting on Ray’s sad death, Carmen was brutal.)

On June 10, 2005, my sons and I sat ringside near Carmen at a fight card. It was the 50-year anniversary of his dramatic 12th round knockout of Tony DeMarco, to win his first title. I bought a 2’-by-3’ print of the knockout scene, and had Carmen autograph it. It’s one of a few framed, autographed pictures of Carmen that my sons have hanging up in their apartment.

We would see Carmen a few times after that, but that night really stands out for me. We talked about Uncle Pat and the “old days.”

Rest in peace, Champ.

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Reply RIP Carmen Basilio (Original post)
H2O Man Nov 2012 OP
demosincebirth Nov 2012 #1
H2O Man Nov 2012 #2
Kingofalldems Nov 2012 #3
Berlum Nov 2012 #4

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Nov 7, 2012, 09:12 PM

1. Ahh Carmen, he'd take three punches just to land one. RIP

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Response to demosincebirth (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 8, 2012, 07:25 AM

2. It's been said

that Carmen resented opponents who missed punches.

A couple of years ago, Rubin and I were talking about Carmen. He said, "Your Uncle Pat for got to teach him one thing: duck, Carmen, duck!"

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Nov 8, 2012, 10:22 AM

3. RIP. He was one tough guy.

He was bleeding by the middle of the first round every match.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Nov 8, 2012, 12:42 PM

4. Carmen Basilio mixes it up with Sugar Ray Robinson

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