Several hundred people packed a church Monday to say final goodbyes to Carmen Basilio, who won the world middleweight boxing crown from Sugar Ray Robinson in 1957 before losing a rematch six months later.
Basilio died Wednesday at a Rochester hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia. He was 85.
The Hall of Fame boxer was described as a gentle and kind man at his funeral in his hometown Irondequoit, a Rochester suburb.
”Today, I don’t remember Carmen as a fighter. I remember him for being the kindest, gentlest, loyal and great man that he was,” said longtime friend David Binzak, according to the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester. ”The Champ lived an exemplary life. He held his family, faith, country and his fans very close.”
Basilio grew up on an onion farm in Canastota in central New York as one of 10 children of Italian immigrants. He turned pro in 1948 after a stint in the Marines. At 5-foot-6 1/2, Basilio bored relentlessly into opponents and wore them down with body blows. The two savage, seesaw 15-rounders against Robinson formed the capstone of his fame.
He took the welterweight title from Tony DeMarco in 1955 and added the middleweight belt near the close of a 13-year career.
Basilio is survived by his wife, four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.