The International Boxing Hall of Fame announced its flags will fly at half-staff in memory of Canastota’s welterweight and middleweight boxing champion Carmen Basilio. He passed away this morning at Rochester General Hospital in Rochester, NY at the age of 85.
“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,” said Hall of Fame Executive Director Edward Brophy. “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, nicknamed “The Upstate Onion Farmer,” was born in Canastota, NY on April 2, 1927. He twice won the world welterweight title, first from Tony DeMarco in 1955 and then from Johnny Saxton in 1956 before defeating Sugar Ray Robinson for the world middleweight championship in 1957. With an aggressive, charging style and a powerful left hook, Basilio scored wins over Lew Jenkins, Ike Williams, Billy Graham, Gil Turner, Art Aragon, Gasper Ortega and Don Jordan among others during his career. He incredibly engaged in five consecutive fights of the year: 1955 (vs DeMarco), 1956 (vs. Saxton), 1957 (vs. Robinson), 1958 (vs. Robinson) and 1959 (vs. Fullmer). His pro record reads 56-16-7 (27 KOs).
Mike Milmoe, board member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the editor and publisher of the Canastota Bee Journal newspaper during Carmen’s fighting days, said, “Carmen was the best known and most famous native son in community history. He gave credibility to the Boxing Hall of Fame in its formative years with his participation and support. When he received the Hickok Award as Pro Athlete of the Year in 1957 after defeating Sugar Ray Robinson for the middleweight championship, he brought worldwide recognition to this community. Wherever he lived or visited his heart was always in Canastota. He was a wonderful individual and our best community ambassador.”
In 1990, Basilio was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
For a photo gallery celebrating the life of Carmen Basilio, please visit the Hall of Fame’s website by clicking here.