Carmine Orlando Tilelli (July 16, 1930 – September 4, 2008) was an American boxer who was the world middleweight champion from 1963 to 1965, and was better known by his professional pseudonym of Joey Giardello.
|Real name||Carmine Orlando Tilelli|
|Born||July 16, 1930|
Brooklyn, New York, USA
|Died||September 4, 2008 (aged 78)|
Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA
|Wins by KO||33|
Giardello was born in Brooklyn, but lived most of his life in the East Passyunk Crossing area of South Philadelphia, 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 using his cousin's name. He then served, underage, in an Airborne unit for the short remainder of World War II. He built up a neat resume whilst serving, though suffered an initial setback: "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 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. (On June 4, 1954, Los Angeles-based heavyweight boxer Clarence Henry, who was managed by Mafiosi Frank "Blinky" Palermo, was arrested in New York City for attempting to bribe Oakland, California middleweight Bobby Jones to throw his June 11 Madison Square Garden match with Giardello. Henry allegedly offered $15,000 (equivalent to approximately $139,944 in today's funds) to Jones to throw the fight. Once the third-ranked heavyweight contender, Henry was released after posting $2,000 bail and subsequently retired from the ring. Giardello beat Jones in a close decision.)
Giardello's fight vs. Billy Graham 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, 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 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. He won the fight handily, using a slick jab to keep Carter at bay, despite taking a few solid rights to the head in the early rounds, though Carter was not able to follow them up. By the 5th round, Giardello had taken control of the fight and was awarded a unanimous decision. However, the fight's depiction in the 1999 film The Hurricane has led many non-boxing fans to believe the decision was in some way corrupt or even racist. However, the decision was agreed upon by Boxing experts present at the fight, to the tune of a Giardello victory by a 3-1 margin; a subsequent informal poll of sportswriters present agreed that Giardello had won. Carter himself agreed with the decision. As detailed further down this page, after the release of 'The Hurricane' in 1999, Giardello was awarded damages relating to the inaccurate depiction of him and manner of his win.
Giardello gave Tiger a rematch on October 21, 1965 and this time, the Nigerian decisioned Giardello over 15 rounds to regain the belt. Giardello fought just four more times over the next two years before retiring.
Life after boxingEdit
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 Inauguration. 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.
He later filed a federal lawsuit against Universal Pictures, Beacon Communications and Aloof Films, for unspecified damages, for its "thoroughly false depiction" of his bout with Rubin Carter in Norman Jewison's 1999 film The Hurricane. "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.
Giardello was inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2009, the 3rd boxer to be inducted after Joe Frazier (2004) and Tommy Loughran (2008). He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993 and was also inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame. 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.
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