Carmen Basilio “On the Ropes Boxing Radio” Interview Transcript
by Geoffrey Ciani - (The following interview transcript with Carmen Basilio aired on episode 68 of On the Ropes Boxing Radio , April 12, 2010)
Jenna J: Well guys, speaking of legends in the sport of boxing it’s time for our second guest on this week’s show, one that we’re honored to have a chance to speak with—we have Hall of Fame boxer Carmen Basilio “On the Ropes”. How’s it going today Carmen?
Carmen Basilio: Hi. Well that’s very nice of you, thank you. How are you?
Jenna: I’m doing very fine, thank you. We’re happy to have you on the show, we’re happy to be interviewing you. I’d first like to ask you, if you don’t mind, and I’m sure the boxing fans are pretty interested—how did you get into the sport of boxing?
Carmen: How did I get in the sport of boxing? I thank my father for that. When my brothers and I were boys he bought us boxing gloves and he made us box all the time.. Then the school had a high school boxing team, and it wasn’t for that high school boxing team I would have never went to high school. So I boxed on the high school boxing team. I got out of that and then I joined The United States Marine Corps and I started boxing in the Marine Corps.
Jenna: Now with those experiences starting out in the sport, did you always plan on becoming a professional fighter?
Carmen: Those were my intentions to begin with—to become a professional boxer. There’s no question about it. My mother and father weren’t crazy about it but I did it anyway.
Jenna: Starting in the sport, what were your expectations when you first started. Did you ever think that you would become a champion?
Carmen: That was my dream—to become a champion. So I had to start down at the bottom and work my way up and that fortunately, I was able to.
Jenna: Well Carmen, I would like to ask you a little bit about how you got your nickname, ‘The Onion Farmer’?
Carmen: I was born and brought up on an onion farm. My father owned a big onion farm and I worked on it. I was born and brought up on an onion farm. We never had time to play when we were kids, we had a lot of work to do on the onion farm.
Jenna: Well we’re also joined by my Co-Host Geoff Ciani—Geoff.
Geoffrey Ciani: Hi Carmen. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. The first question I would like to ask you Carmen is, in your first title shot you fought Kid Gavilan and you dropped him in the second round but you wound up losing a fifteen round decision. Can you tell us a little bit about your experiences from that fight with Kid Gavilan?
Carmen: Well, it was a championship fight. To begin with, a lot of people didn’t give me a chance to come close in this fight, and as it was I thought I licked him. I had him on the floor. Nobody ever put him on the canvas before and we had a little bit of a war. It went fifteen rounds and they gave him the decision.
Geoffrey: Now in your next shot at the title, you beat Tony DeMarco and then you beat him again in your title defense. Can you tell us a little bit about those fights.
Carmen: When I fought Tony DeMarco, Tony DeMarco was always tough. You know Tony DeMarco was a good puncher and he was always dangerous. All I could do was make sure I kept myself in good shape again for the return because he was going to be ready for it and he was not easy. I won, but it was a tough fight.
Jenna: After that fight you fought Johnny Saxton and you fought him in his home town, you fought him in Chicago, and you lost a close unanimous decision. Can you tell us a little bit about that fight and if you feel that you were not given your just deserve in it?
Carmen: Well Saxton was a hard guy to fight, and he just got me caught at the right time. His timing was good and my timing was bad, so he won, but we fought return matches after that and I beat him.
Jenna: Yeah, and then that fight actually ended up being Ring Magazine 1956 Fight of the Year. Can you tell us what you did differently in the rematch that allowed you to be victorious and win back your title?
Carmen: I just had to be more aggressive, that’s all, and I had to go after him and go get him. The first fight I was not prepared for it and my manager wasn’t paying attention either, and that had a lot to do with it.
Jenna: Now you finished off that series with Saxton with a second round KO in your third fight. Did you think you had your satisfaction after losing title first then fighting him three times?
Carmen: No, I thought it was going to be an easy fight with him every time, but it was not. He was a good fighter and he could give you a lot of hard times.
Geoffrey: I was wondering if you could tell the fans a little bit about when you first started working with Angelo Dundee?
Carmen: Well, I went to Floirda to train in the winter time and I wound up in Angelo Dundee’s brother’s gym, and we got to be acquainted and we got to like each other a lot. He was a good trainer and I worked hard so we got along good.
Geoffrey: Now what were some of the things that Angelo was able to do to help improve your game as a fighter?
Carmen: He was a good man in the corner for advice and all of that. He knew what he was talking about so I listened to him all the time.
Jenna: Obviously you worked with Angelo Dundee and one of the biggest fights that he worked with you on was your fight against Sugar Ray Robinson and your surprised a lot of people when you moved up to middleweight and you took a split decision win. Can you tell us a little bit about that fight?
Carmen: Well, we were in a position where he was looking for an opponent and I was looking for an opponent so we thought that a Basilio-Robinson fight would be a good thing for the people. So that’s what happened, so we fought each other. They were big world championship fights and I moved up from welterweight into middleweight, to the upper class. One of my great thrills was that I fought him in Yankees Stadium. Naturally being a baseball fan all of the time, it was a great feeling to fight at Yankees Stadium.
Jenna: Now you beat him in that first fight to become middleweight champion of the world, but how good was Sugar Ray Robinson?
Carmen: Ray Robinson was a great fighter. He was a very tall man, a lot taller than me. He had great leverage for punching—that made him a great fighter, no doubt about that.
Jenna: Now you got to fight him six months later in a rematch and you lost a close split decision and a lot of people give you a lot of marks of courage for the way you fought him with your hurt eye in that match. How did you feel about the rematch?
Carmen: Well, it was close. It could have went either way. I was in his territory so naturally he’s going to get the edge, and that’s going to happen all the time when you’re fighting in the other guy’s territory.
Jenna: Do you have any regrets that you never got to fight him for a third time to settle the rivalry with a trilogy?
Carmen: He didn’t want any part of me. He wouldn’t fight me a third time. The third fight would have been the biggest one of all of them. We would have both been in great shape so it would have been a war. It would have been a war like the other two.
Geoffrey: Now Carmen, I’m wondering, what was the proudest moment of your boxing career?
Carmen: When I win.
Geoffrey: Any particular win, or all of your wins?
Carmen: When I win, that was the proudest moment. I won six championship fights—that’s winning, and regaining the title in one of the fights was a big thrill. It meant a lot to me.
Geoffrey: What do you consider to be your best weapon when you were at your best during your fighting days?
Carmen: Being in top physical condition and ready to fight. Doing the road work and doing everything you’re supposed to be doing to get yourself prepared for the battle.
Geoffrey: What do you think about the fact that today in boxing, they no longer have fifteen round championship fights?
Carmen: You got to be in better shape for fifteen round fights and you got to work a little harder during the training program. They should still have the fifteen round fights because the fifteen round fights are real championship fights.
Geoffrey: Carmen, how would you ultimately like to be remembered by boxing fans?
Carmen: That I was a crowd pleaser—that I gave the fans excitement and that they enjoyed watching the fights. That’s why people came to the fights, so we can make them enjoyable.
Jenna: Well Carmen, we have just a few more questions before we let you off the line and I wanted to ask you, you had a lot of great fights, you fought a lot of great fighters in your career. What was your most difficult fight?
Carmen: Most difficult fight? With my wife, she wins all the time.
Carmen: I don’t know. Most difficult fight I had in my whole career? I don’t know, I had a lot of them: Sugar Ray Robinson, Kid Gavilan, Tony DeMarco, Gene Fullmer—I had a lot of difficult fights.
Jenna: You were also involved in five straight Fight of the Years. What in you as a fighter allowed you to fight in that way that made such a crowd-pleasing style that made those great fights?
Carmen: The fans were the people making it, to get fans to come to the fights. But I fought the same way all the time. I had one style—an aggressive style, so it didn’t make that much difference.
Jenna: How proud were you when you were elected into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990?
Carmen: Naturally, it was in my home town so I was very proud of it. And then again, we had another champion come from my town—Billy Backus, who was my nephew. He became welterweight champion of the world, too.
Jenna: Alright Carmen, I have one final question for you—do you have any advice for any young fighters out there that are looking to succeed in boxing?
Carmen: To know you got to train and work, to live a good clean life, and be prepared, that’s all. You got to pay the price. You got to make yourself tired of working and training, because if don’t do that you ain’t going to do nothing.
Jenna: Alright. Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you Carmen, talking to a Hall of Famer and a legend of the sport like yourself, and we wish you the best of luck and we thank you for your time.
Carmen: Your welcome. Thank you very much.
Geoffrey: Thank you very much for coming on the show. It was a pleasure to speak with you and thank you very much.
Carmen: Thank you. You take care of yourself.
Jenna: Thank you. Have a great day, Carmen.
Carmen: Thank you.
For those of you interested in listening to the entire Carmen Basilio interview, it begins approximately 38 minutes and 20 seconds into the show
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Article posted on 14.04.2010
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