By Jake Donovan
Boxing great Carmen Basilio, a former two-time world champion, passed away early Wednesday morning at the age of 85. Basilio died at approximately 3:00AM in Rochester Memorial Hospital, according to the
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
A true people’s champion in upstate New York, Basilio won world championships at welterweight and middleweight. His welterweight title winning effort over Tony DeMarco in June ’55 made Basilio the first ever world champion for trainer Angelo Dundee, who passed away earlier this year.
Known as the ‘Onion Farmer’ during his 13-year career, Basilio served as one of the very best in an era that included Sugar Ray Robinson, widely considered as the greatest boxer of all time. Basilio beat Robinson to win the World middleweight crown in what was recognized as the Fight of the Year in 1957.
The win made Basilio a two-time world champion, moving up in weight after having served two tours as welterweight king. It was also the last truly great moment in a truly great career; Basilio lost the crown to Robinson in their rematch six months later.
Basilio fought for another three years following the loss to Robinson. He never strayed far from the top, losing twice to Gene Fullmer and coming up short against defending world champion Paul Pender in his final fight before calling it a career in 1961, with a record of 56-16-7 (27KO).
A native of Canastota, Basilio’s existence in the town played a major factor in it serving as the location for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He was a part of the inaugural class inducted in 1990 and a fixture in its annual festivities every June.
The Hall of Fame has announced that its flag will be flown at half-staff in honor of its local hero.
“Carmen put Canastota on the worldwide boxing map and gave the village’s residents a sense of pride that couldn’t be matched anywhere in the world,” the IBHOF’s executive director, Edward Brophy, said in a statement. “During the 1950s and 1960s Carmen was everyone’s hero.
“They talked about him in the coffee shops, grocery stores, gas stations and barbershops all the time. And they still talk about him today. He was loved, respected and idolized. His career and memories will last forever in the Village of Canastota.”
Basilio relocated to Irondequoit in 1985, where lived until his final days. His time spent in the Rochester suburb included a stint as the spokesperson for Genesee Beer.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: