Joey Giardello
Carmine Orlando Tilelli (July 16, 1930 - September 4, 2008) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

Boxing, also called pugilism, is a combat sport in which two people fight each other using their fists. Boxing is supervised by a referee over a series of between one to three minute intervals called rounds...

 who was the middleweight champion of the world from 1963 to 1965, and was better known by his professional pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 of Joey Giardello.

Early life

Giardello was born in Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

, but lived most of his life in the East Passyunk Crossing area of South Philadelphia
South Philadelphia
South Philadelphia, nicknamed South Philly, is the section of Philadelphia bounded by South Street to the north, the Delaware River to the east and south, and the Schuylkill River to the west.-History:...

, where, as a young man, he joined many other Italian-Americans in the city in taking up boxing. He turned professional in 1948, not long after his 18th birthday. It was said that Giardello changed his name from Tilelli in an attempt to join the US Army under the legal age, towards the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. "He had a scuffle at a gas station which cost him his $100,000 Prize Fight money and five months in jail" during his early years.

Pro career

As a pro, he quickly racked up an 18-0-1 record in his first 19 fights while facing less-than-stellar opposition. He fought just three men who had previously won a fight during that time. It caught up with Tilelli on January 16, 1950, when he was handed his first defeat by Joe DiMartino, a journeyman with a 6-10 record.

After that embarrassment, he began to face better opposition and by 1951, was beating some of the better middleweight boxers on the Philadelphia scene. He continued to do so for years afterward, but was blocked from receiving a shot at the world championship by the underworld figures who controlled the sport at that time.

Giardello's fight vs. Billy Graham
Billy Graham (boxer)
Billy Graham was an American boxer from New York City, New York. Graham had the remarkable distinction of never having been knocked off his feet in his long career...

 was the next significant bout. The decision first was awarded to Graham, then later reversed to a decision in favor of Giardello, then reversed again, some time later, in favor of Graham. This fight is known in boxing lore as "The reversed reversal."

It was only in 1960 that Tilelli, now known as Giardello, received any kind of championship opportunity. On April 20, he faced Gene Fullmer for the National Boxing Association version of the world middleweight title. He missed out on the title when he and Fullmer fought to a draw over 15 rounds.

Giardello lost four of his next six fights, but then came back strong with an 8-1-1 record in his next 10, all of which were over some of the biggest names in the division at that time. One of his wins, a 10-round decision over Henry Hank on January 30, 1962, was chosen as Ring Magazine's fight of the year. Then, on June 24, 1963, Giardello upset boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson was an African-American professional boxer. Frequently cited as the greatest boxer of all time, Robinson's performances in the welterweight and middleweight divisions prompted sportswriters to create "pound for pound" rankings, where they compared fighters regardless of weight...

, and at the age of 33, was finally named as the No. 1 challenger for the world middleweight title.

He wasted no opportunity. On December 7, Giardello faced Dick Tiger
Dick Tiger
Dick Tiger CBE was a boxer from Ubahu village, Amaigbo, Nigeria, who emigrated to Liverpool and later to the United States of America. Tiger was a member of the Igbo ethnic group...

 in Atlantic City for the title and won, taking the world championship by decision in 15 rounds and drawing with Tiger in two others.

He reigned as world champion for nearly two years, winning four fights during that time. The most notable was a December 14, 1964 title defense against Rubin Carter
Rubin Carter
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter fought professionally as a middleweight boxer from 1961 to 1966. In 1966, he was arrested for a triple homicide in the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey...

, which many today wrongly believe he won on an unjust decision because of the fight's portrayal in the 1999 movie The Hurricane
The Hurricane (1999 film)
The Hurricane is a 1999 biographical film directed by Norman Jewison, and starring Denzel Washington. The script was adapted by Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon from the books Lazarus and the Hurricane by Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton and The Sixteenth Round by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.The film...

. Carter started the fight well landing a few solid rights to the head in the early rounds but was not able to follow them up. By the 5th round, Giardello had taken control of the fight and was awarded a unanimous decision.

Boxing experts present at the fight believed he deserved the victory by a 3-1 margin, and an informal poll of sportswriters present agreed that Giardello had won. Even Carter himself never disputed the decision at the time.

Giardello gave Tiger a rematch on October 21, 1965 and this time, the Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

n decisioned Giardello over 15 rounds to regain the belt. Giardello fought just four more times over the next two years before retiring.

Life after boxing

After retirement, he went into private business and went back to his real name.
He was an insurance salesman and later joined the Misco International Chemical Company as their New York-Philadelphia-New Jersey distributor. He had married his wife Rosalie, in 1950 with whom he had four children. He did a lot of work with the mentally handicapped, particularly for St. John of God School Community Services in Westville Grove New Jersey, where his son, Carman, afflicted with Down's Syndrome stayed for ten years. He met the Pope and was invited to President John F. Kennedy's Inaugertion. With his celebrity and title he participated in countless fundraising events for the mentally retarded and contributed his time and talent to the Special Olympics founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. At one event he taught the Special Olympians to jump rope.

He had a small role as a man from "The Syndicate" in the 1975 movie Moonrunners
Moonrunners is a 1975 film starring James Mitchum, and the precursor to The Dukes of Hazzard television series. Mitchum had co-starred with his famous father, Robert Mitchum, in the similar drive-in favorite Thunder Road eighteen years earlier, which also focused upon moonshine-running bootleggers...


He later filed a federal lawsuit against Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
-1920:* White Youth* The Flaming Disc* Am I Dreaming?* The Dragon's Net* The Adorable Savage* Putting It Over* The Line Runners-1921:* The Fire Eater* A Battle of Wits* Dream Girl* The Millionaire...

, Beacon Communications
Beacon Communications
Beacon Pictures is the name of an American production company co-founded in 1990 by Armyan Bernstein...

 and Aloof Films, for unspecified damages, for its "thoroughly false depiction" of his bout with Rubin Carter
Rubin Carter
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter fought professionally as a middleweight boxer from 1961 to 1966. In 1966, he was arrested for a triple homicide in the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey...

 in Norman Jewison's 1999 film The Hurricane
The Hurricane (1999 film)
The Hurricane is a 1999 biographical film directed by Norman Jewison, and starring Denzel Washington. The script was adapted by Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon from the books Lazarus and the Hurricane by Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton and The Sixteenth Round by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.The film...

. "In a key scene, the film shows a punch-drunk, blood-spattered Giardello being clearly beaten by Carter but winning a racially-tinged decision...[Giardello had] suffered only a small cut over the left eye caused by a butt in the 4th round and won what a majority at ringside thought was a clear decision over a listless Carter...." Giardello settled out-of-court for an undisclosed sum and Jewison's agreement to make a statement on the DVD version of the film that Giardello "no doubt" was a great fighter.

He died on September 4, 2008 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Cherry Hill is a township in Camden County, New Jersey, in the United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township had a population of 71,045, representing an increase of 1,080 from the 69,965 residents enumerated during the 2000 Census...

. He was 78 years old.


He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame
International Boxing Hall of Fame
The modern International Boxing Hall of Fame is located in Canastota, New York, United States, within driving distance from the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown and the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta...

 in 1993 and was also inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame
World Boxing Hall of Fame
The World Boxing Hall of Fame is located in Riverside, California, United States, in Southern California. The WBHF is one of two recognized international boxing halls of fame with the other being the International Boxing Hall of Fame , with the IBHOF being the more widely recognized...

. His career record was 101 wins, 25 losses and 7 draws, but even more impressively, he was 5-3-1 against other boxers in the Hall of Fame, including a 2-2 mark against Tiger.

A public statue honoring Giardello is situated in the East Passyunk Crossing
East Passyunk Crossing, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
East Passyunk Crossing is a South Philadelphia neighborhood. Its location is considered to be from Tasker Street to Snyder Avenue, Broad Street to 8th Street.-The New Gayborhood:...

 section of South Philadelphia.

External links

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