Carmen Basilio, former boxing champ, dies at 85

Posted at: 11/07/2012 9:51 AM
Updated at: 11/07/2012 5:31 PM
By: Robin De Wind

The boxing world and Rochester lost a treasure. Former welterweight and middle weight boxing champion Carmen Basilio died Wednesday morning from complications from pneumonia at the age of 85.

Basilio called Canastota, NY home, but he lived with his wife, Josie, in their Irondequoit home for the past 27 years. Rochester, his second home, is where he continued to promote and support his love of boxing. Basilio was a frequent guest a local sports dinners and was known for his punch on the cheek to friends.

He made his name during the golden years of boxing, climbing up the welterweight division. He was a two-time champion. His fight with Tony DeMarco is still considered to be one of boxing's best.

In 1957, he went up in weight class and challenged middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson and won the title in a 15 round decision. Basilio's career record was 56-16-7 with 27 knockouts. He dominated the sport from 1954 to 1958. 

But he is being remembered, not just for success in the ring, but for his generous nature and his love for the fans.

Longtime friend and Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame President Tony Liccione says despite Basilio's declining health due to heart bypass surgery 12 years ago, he remained an important part of this community.

Tony Liccione, President, Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame, said, “He was the people's champion. He had a fighting heart. His name is the same as courage. He was the little guy who challenged the bigger guys like Gene Fulmer. He went after them, Sugar Ray Robinson and beat him in 1957. He was beloved. He was the people's champion. He would get accolades even more than Muhammad Ali.”

Liccone was inducted into The International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota in its first class in 1990. His career helped inspire organizers to build the hall in his hometown.

Carmen Basilio leaves behind his wife, Josie, and many friends. He was 85 years old.

Watch a special 10 Country segment from 1990 with Carmen Basilio