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Joey Giardello vs. Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Fight That Never Was

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Today (Wednesday, Oct. 23) marks the 55th anniversary of the aborted fight at the Las Vegas Convention Center between Joey Giardello and challenger Rubin “Hurricane” Carter for the middleweight championship of the world.

How’s that again?

Most folks with an interest in boxing history are aware that Joey Giardello once fought “Hurricane” Carter. Many know that the fight was held in Philadelphia. And the most fervent boxing aficionados can probably pinpoint the month and year, December of 1964, Dec. 14 to be exact. But few people know that this fight had been orphaned, leaving the principals stranded in Las Vegas, as it were, scrambling for a new date and venue.

It’s odd that there’s been virtually no mention of this fact in stories about the Giardello-Carter fight because had the fight had gone off as scheduled, the post-fight life of Hurricane Carter may have taken a different path. Considering what lay ahead for him, it’s hard to think of another aborted fight that commands such a compelling “what if?”.

The Las Vegas fight was promoted by an organization called the Silver State Boxing Club. The face of the club was matchmaker Mel “Red” Greb. A Caesars Palace craps dealer, Greb had learned the business of boxing in his native Newark beginning as a teenage “go-fer” for Willie Gilzenburg who had the boxing and wrestling concession at Newark’s premier indoor sports venue, Laurel Gardens.

For a world title fight, the Silver State Club needed a partner to share the expenses and risk. They partnered with Telescript, a fledgling company that had acquired the rights to exhibit the fight at closed-circuit outlets. But Telescript, to Greb’s great dismay, was all smoke and mirrors. The company was contractually obligated to kick in a portion of the required $55,000 bond, but the helmsmen kept stalling and eventually Greb had no recourse but to bail out. On Monday, Oct. 19, four days before the big event, a crestfallen Greb told the media that the show was canceled. The gate receipts alone wouldn’t be sufficient to cover his nut.

In those days in Las Vegas, it was normative for the principals in a nationally important fight to show up three weeks before the event. The showroom or ballroom at the casino where they stayed was converted into a gym for afternoon workouts. The workouts were open to the public and the fighters were expected to fraternize with high rollers.

Joey Giardello, being the A-side guy (and the white guy) got to stay on the Strip. He and his entourage stayed at the Thunderbird. They sent Hurricane Carter downtown to the far less toney El Cortez.

According to stories in both local papers, Carter looked sensational in his workouts. He ran off several sparring partners.

One could attribute this to pre-fight hype, but hype that is especially thick is invariably layered on an underdog and Hurricane Carter was the favorite. The local bookies had it 7/5 that The Hurricane would snatch away Giardello’s title and the price was expected to drift higher.

A Snapshot of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

In 1964, Hurricane Carter was 27 years old. To say that he had a troubled past would be an understatement. He had been convicted three times for muggings and had already spent 10 years of his life behind prison walls.

Carter was good copy for sportswriters because he was extremely well-spoken. “I regret that I was a contumacious child,” he told New York Post reporter Milton Gross. He had charisma that accrued from his menacing appearance. He was one of the first prominent athletes to shave his head bald, cultivated a Fu Manchu moustache and a thick beard, and perfected Sonny Liston’s malevolent glare.

Carter turned heads with first-round knockouts of Cuban contender Florentino Fernandez and world welterweight champion Emile Griffith in a non-title fight. Aside from those spectacular triumphs, his best win was a split decision over George Benton, a tough fighter from Philadelphia who would go on to become a prominent trainer. Benton owned a win over Giardello.

But Carter’s 20-4 pro record was unexceptional for a man accorded a title shot and three of those losses had come against marginally skilled opponents. Giardello’s boosters disparaged Carter as a frontrunner, a boxer who loses his courage when he fails to take his man out quick.

A Snapshot of Joey Giardello

Giardello was born in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and raised in South Philly. His birth name was Carmine Orlando Tilelli. The name “Giardello” came from a phony ID, an ID loaned to him by an older boy, the cousin of a friend. It was Joey’s passport out of his hoodlum-infested neighborhood, allowing him to join the Army at age 15. The pseudonym stuck.

Prior to joining the Army, Giardello had served four-and-a-half months in a juvenile reformatory. He was the alleged ringleader of a gang of teenagers that busted up a gas station.

Giardello’s 10-round fight with Detroit’s Henry Hank in 1962 was named The Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year. But his performance in this fight was out of character as Giardello wasn’t a hell-for-leather fighter. To the contrary, he was something of a cutie; a crafty technician.

His career was a lesson in perseverance. He had 105 fights under his belt when he got his first title shot. It came against Gene Fullmer in Bozeman, Montana, a regional site advantage for Fullmer who lived on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. In a lusty match, Fullmer retained his title with a 15-round draw.

Three years later, after upsetting a faded Sugar Ray Robinson, Giardello was granted another title shot, this coming against Dick Tiger in Atlantic City. They had split two previous meetings, but Tiger, born in Nigeria, was installed a 7/2 favorite.

Counter-punching effectively, Giardello won the title, prevailing by an 8-5-2 margin on the scorecard of referee Paul Cavalier, the sole arbiter. There were only two internationally relevant world sanctioning organizations, the WBA and WBC, and both now recognized Joey Giardello as their champion.

When the Giardello-Carter fight finally came to fruition at the Philadelphia Convention Center, the deck was stacked against The Hurricane. The Pennsylvania Commission, yielding to a protest from Giardello’s camp, forced Carter to shave off his beard so that he could not use it as an abrasive in the clinches. And although Carter hailed from Paterson, New Jersey, not far from Philadelphia, he would be in hostile territory. The crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Giardello.

In the 1999 movie “The Hurricane,” filmed in black-and-white to capture the flavor of the era, Carter pounds Giardello from pillar to post only to be robbed of the decision by racially biased judges who deliberate 35 minutes before reaching their decision.

Carter is portrayed by Denzel Washington. He’s brilliant, but the movie is garbage. Fourteen of 17 ringside reporters scored the fight for Giardello who did especially well in the late rounds. (Giardello sued director Norman Jewison for libel and received an undisclosed sum in a case settled out of court.)

Hurricane Carter had 15 more fights, winning eight, before he was locked away in Rahway State Prison for his involvement – perhaps we should say alleged involvement — in a particularly heinous crime, a triple homicide at a Paterson bar and grill. He spent 19 years at Rahway, all the while maintaining his innocence, and became a cause-celebre, inspiring three books (the movie was based on his autobiography “The 16th Round”) and a Bob Dylan song. He died in 2014 in Toronto where he was being treated for prostate cancer.

Joey Giardello lost his title in his next title defense, losing a 15-round decision to four-time rival Dick Tiger, and retired in 1967 with a record of 98-26-8. In retirement, he held several private- and public-sector jobs and became known for his charity work, particularly for children with learning disabilities. (Joey’s son Carman, the youngest of his four children, was born with Down Syndrome.) He died in 2008, three years before a statue of him by the noted sculptor Carl LeVotch was unveiled in his old Philadelphia neighborhood.

Nobody seems to be on the fence when it comes to Hurricane Carter’s guilt or innocence. He was twice found guilty in jury trials, but both verdicts were overturned on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. “Twice Wrongly Convicted of Murder” appeared in the headline of his obituary in the New York Times, but there are some folks who will always believe that justice would have been better served if his captors had thrown away the key. Regardless, the “what if?” question will never disappear.

What if Carter’s fight with Giardello had been staged in Las Vegas as originally planned? Keep in mind that Carter would have been favored. How would his life have changed going forward if the fight hadn’t imploded, the casualty of a bad marriage between a local promoter and a feckless TV partner?

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel  

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Juan Francisco Estrada Holds Off ‘Chocolatito’ Again

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Once again Juan Francisco Estrada jumped out in front early and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez needed time to crank up the engine, but fell too far behind as the Mexican fighter won the vacant WBC flyweight world title on Saturday.

Estrada wins the trilogy 10 years in the making.

Once again Estrada (44-3, 28 KOs) surged ahead early in the fight against Nicaragua’s Gonzalez (51-4, 41 KOs) and then navigated toward another win, this time at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona on the Matchroom Boxing card.

“We had excellent preparation at high altitude and I think we left the fight clear on who won the fight this time,” said Estrada about the third encounter.

Ten years ago, the trilogy began in Los Angeles as “Chocolatito” confronted an unknown fighter at the time in Estrada. The two surprised the crowd who expected Gonzalez to destroy yet another Mexican fighter. But it did not happen that night though Chocolatito proved too experienced and battered his way to victory in a light flyweight world title clash.

Then, in March 2021, Estrada finally fought Gonzalez in a rematch and the two engaged in a closely-fought super flyweight world title match. This time Estrada proved slightly better according to the judges and won by split decision in Dallas, Texas.

Few knew what to expect in a third encounter.

At first the coronavirus stalled plans for the trifecta so Chocolatito fought a replacement and dominated. Meanwhile Estrada fought another Mexican and did not look good.

On Saturday, a decade after their first encounter, Estrada looked fluid and accurate in dominating the first six rounds of the fight. Though he did not hurt Gonzalez, he was repeatedly scoring at will.

Gonzalez woke up around the seventh round.

Suddenly the Nicaraguan who was once considered the best fighter Pound for Pound showed up and fired rapid combinations. The spring in his legs suddenly appeared and the energy level was cranked up high after nearly being on idle.

Estrada suddenly found himself against the ropes forced to slip and slide away from Gonzalez’s powerful combination punches. A real fight suddenly erupted during the final six rounds.

“All fights are different and all fights are difficult and this was the most difficult one,” said Gonzalez, a four-division world champion.

Though neither fighter was ever visibly hurt, Gonzalez’s pressure kept Estrada expending too much energy trying to evade the Nicaraguan’s traps during the final six rounds.

“He always goes 100 miles an hour,” said Estrada of his nemesis.

Estrada used uppercuts and slide steps to maneuver against Gonzalez’s hard charges. It seemed to work and allowed the Mexican fighter more room and time to apply counter-measures.

In the final round, those maneuvers allowed Estrada to connect with a hard punch to the body that forced Chocolatito to cover up. It also allowed Estrada to unravel a combination that gave him the last round if needed. After 12 rounds one judge scored it 114-114, while two others saw it 116-112, 115-113 for Estrada who becomes the new WBC super flyweight world titlist.

“We did an excellent fight and I got the victory,” said Estrada. “I’ve always said Chocolatito is a future Hall of Famer.”

Gonzalez was gracious in defeat.

“What is important is we gave that good fight to the fans and we came out in good health,” Gonzalez said.

There is even talk of a fourth fight.

“As long as they pay well, of course,” said Gonzalez.

Other Fights

Julio Cesar Martinez (19-2, 14 KOs) retained the WBC flyweight world title by majority decision over Spain’s Samuel Carmona (8-1) in a rather dull affair. Mexico’s Martinez chased Carmon all 12 rounds in a fight that saw Carmona slap and run, then hold.

No knockdowns were scored and Martinez won 114-114, 117-111, 116-112.

Diego Pacheco (17-0, 14 KOs) ran over Mexico’s Adrian Luna (24-9-2) with three knockdowns in winning by stoppage in the second round of the super middleweight fight. It was no surprise.

The 21-year-old from South Central L.A. once again showed that despite his youth his power seems to be continually increasing as evident in the knockout win.

Now training with Team David Benavidez, the young super middleweight looked sharp, especially with the lead overhand right that floored Luna in the second round. Luna was floored two more times and the fight was wisely stopped by his own corner.

“You put in the hard work then you come in here and shine,” said Pacheco. “I joined team Benavidez this year.”

Nicaragua’s former world titlist Cristofer Rosales (35-6, 21 KOs) won a dog fight over Mexico’s Joselito Velasquez (15-1-1, 10 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a flyweight clash.

It was a back-and-forth struggle that saw the taller Rosales take over in the second half of the fight and win by simply out-punching Velasquez and handing the Mexican his first loss as a professional by scores 97-93 three times.

Photo credit: Milena Pizano

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Tyson Fury TKOs Derek Chisora in Round 10

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It was a chilly night in London but that didn’t deter a near-capacity crowd from turning out at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to witness the third rumble between Tyson Fury and Derek Chisora. The Gypsy King was heavily favored to retain his WBC and lineal heavyweight title and performed as expected. Indeed, this fight closely resembled their second encounter back in 2014.

In that bout, Chisora absorbed a terrific amount of punishment before his corner pulled him out at the conclusion of the 10th round. Tonight’s fight ended nine seconds earlier at the 2:51 mark of round 10 and it was the referee who terminated the match.

When is a heavyweight not a heavyweight? When the man in the opposite corner is substantially bigger. With an 8-inch height advantage and a 15-inch reach advantage, the six-foot-nine Fury was simply too big a mountain to climb for the brave Derek Chisora, a fighter who changed his nickname in mid-career, transitioning from “Dell Boy” to “War.”

Fury dominated round two, especially the last minute, a round in which he was credited with landing 18 power punches. The writing was on the wall for Chisora who ate a lot of thudding uppercuts in the ensuing rounds and ended the contest with a badly swollen right eye and a bloody mouth. With the victory, Fury improved his ledger to 32-0-1 with his 24th win inside the distance. The Zimbabwe-born Chisora falls to 33-13.

Oleksandr Usyk and Joe Joyce were in attendance and the Gypsy King addressed both before he left the ring. Calling Usyk “The Rabbit,” he indicated that he would fight Usyk next in a true unification fight, but said if there were a snag in negotiations he wouldn’t mind trading blows with the Juggernaut, Joe Joyce, who wore down and stopped former heavyweight title-holder Joseph Parker, a former Fury sparring partner, in his most recent engagement. However, Fury also revealed that he had an issue with his right elbow that may require surgery.

Co-Feature

In a heavyweight match that lasted only three rounds but was chock-full of action, Daniel Dubois overcame three knockdowns to retain his secondary WBA heavyweight title he won at the expense Trevor Bryan with a third-round stoppage of upset-minded Kevin Lerena.

In the opening stanza, Johannesburg’s Lerena, landed an overhand left on the top of Dubois’s head that put the Englishman on the canvas and left him all at sea. He went down twice more before the round was over, the first time of his own volition when he took a knee (reminiscent of his match with Joe Joyce) and the second from a glancing blow.

Dubois, whose legs are spindly for a man of his poundage, had trouble regaining his equilibrium in round two, but Lerena didn’t press his advantage. In the next frame, a short right from Dubois penetrated Lerena’s guard and down went the South African. Smelling blood, Dubois knocked him down again and was pummeling him against the ropes when the referee interceded just as it appeared that Lerena would be saved by the bell.

It was the fourth straight win for Dubois (19-1, 18 KOs) since his mishap versus Joyce. Lerena, who entered the bout on a 17-fight winning streak, lost for the second time in 30 fights.

Also

In a ho-hum affair, Denis Berinchyk, a 24-year-old Ukrainian, captured the European lightweight title and remained undefeated with a unanimous decision over French-Senagalese warhorse Ivan Mendy. Berinchyk (17-0, 9 KOs) was making his first appearance in London since winning a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics where he was a teammate of Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko.

The judges had it 117-112 and 116-112 twice for the Ukrainian. The 37-year-old Mendy, who has answered the bell for 380 rounds, falls to 47-6-1.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Light Nips Glanton in Florida; across the pond, Kelly UD 12 Williamson in Newcastle

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ProBox TV, a fledgling promotional group co-founded by former world champions Roy Jones Jr, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Paulie Malignaggi, has found a home for their bi-monthly shows at an events center in Plant City, Florida, near Tampa. The main event of last night’s show (Friday, Dec. 2) was a well-matched 10-rounder between world ranked cruiserweights Brandon Glanton (pictured on the left) and David Light, both undefeated.

Light, a 31-year-old New Zealander who was 19-0 (12 KOs) heading in, had a strong amateur background that included a silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but was virtually unknown outside the Antipodes, having fought almost exclusively on small shows in Auckland. Glanton, a 30-year-old Atlanta native who had trimmed down considerably since his days as a defensive lineman at HBCU Albany State, had caught the eye of hardcore fight fans with a thrilling split decision over previously unbeaten Efetobor Apochi on a TBS show in Minneapolis.

The oddsmakers made Glanton (17-0, 14 KOs heading in) a small favorite and after 10 hard rounds there were many who thought he deserved the nod. He turned the fight into a “phone booth” affair, pressing the action while working the body effectively, and scored the bout’s lone knockdown, knocking Light off his pins (he wasn’t badly hurt) in the final frame with what appeared to be a glancing blow. But two of the judges were more impressed by Light’s counter-punching, scoring the bout 97-92 and 95-94 for the kiwi, overruling the dissenter who had it 95-94 for Blanton.

It was the sort of fight that cries out for a rematch, but David Light will undoubtedly go in a different direction. Both he and Glanton were pointing toward a match with WBO title-holder Lawrence Okolie.

Newcastle

Earlier on Friday, across the pond in Newcastle, England, former Olympian Josh Kelly got the signature win that had eluded him with a lopsided 12-round decision over defending British 154-pound title-holder and former amateur teammate Troy Williamson.

This was Kelly’s third fight since David Avanesyan burst his bubble in a welterweight affair, stopping Kelly in the sixth stanza. The local fighter, who boosted his record to 13-1-1 (7) blamed his poor performance on his struggle to make weight.

The previously undefeated Williamson, 19-0-1 heading in, was making the second defense of the title he won in a barnburner with Ted Cheeseman. He went to post a small favorite, but was outclassed by Kelly who won by scores of 119-109, 119-111, and 118-110.

In the co-feature, Manchester’s Lyndon Arthur (21-1, 15 KOs) stayed relevant in the light heavyweight division with a second-round stoppage of overmatched Joel McIntyre (20-5). In his lone defeat, Arthur was TKOed by revenge-minded Anthony Yarde.

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