This video clip is a continuation of HBO’s boxing special “Boxing’s Best Grudge Fights”….which features the notorious middleweight boxing battles between Sugar Ray Robinson vs Gene Fullmer……and the ring wars between middleweights Sugar Ray Robinson vs Carmen Basillo….as Robinson takes on two rugged middleweight champions in what turned out to be some of the best grudge fights in boxing history.
Fullmer won the world middleweight championship on January 2, 1957….when he upset the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson by soundly winning a unanimous 15-round decision. On May 1, 1957 they fought a rematch in a fight that began as expected….with Fullmer using his strength and awkwardness to bull into Robinson and really force him onto his heels….however, in the fifth round….while backing up, Robinson lashed out with what has been called the perfect left hook….which caught Fullmer flush on the chin and knocked him out.
In 1959, the National Boxing Association withdrew its recognition of Robinson as middleweight champion….opening the door for Fullmer and fellow former middleweight champion Carmen Basilio to fight for the vacant NBA title on August 28, 1959….in which Fullmer won the crown when he TKO’d Basilio in the 14th round. Meanwhile, Robinson was to lose his version of the middleweight championship to Paul Pender. Fullmer and Pender never met to settle their claims to the middleweight title….as Pender eventually retired. Meanwhile, Fullmer fought and turned back the challenges of many top contenders….such as Basilio, Spider Webb, Florentino Fernández…along with welterweight champion Benny “Kid” Paret….then he narrowly escaped being dethroned when he was held to 15-round draws by Robinson and future titleholder Joey Giardello. The draw against Robinson was widely criticised by almost every ringside observer….who had Robinson winning 11-4 or 10-5 in rounds. In their final meeting, a title bout in 1961, Fullmer beat Robinson by unanimous decision.
Any way you cut the pie…..the three fights between Sugar Ray Robinson and Gene Fullmer were grudge fights of the highest level….and always well worth the watch.
Now, the grudge fights between Sugar Ray Robinson vs Carmen Basilio all started when Basilio went up in weight as the world welterweight champion and challenged aging 37-year-old world middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson….in what perhaps may have been his most famous fight. He won the middleweight championship of the world by beating Robinson in one of the most exciting 15 round decisions in middleweight history on September 23, 1957. The day after, he had to abandon the welterweight belt, according to boxing laws. In 1957 Basilio won the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year.
In 1958, he and Robinson met in a rematch on March 25th…as Robinson barely regained the title with a 15 round controversial decision….in a fight where Basilio’s left eye was totally swelled shut from the 6th round on….and still many of the ringside press thought Basilio won this second fight. This too was a split decision just as their first fight was. From that moment, and until his retirement in 1961….Basilio fought only sporadically….but 3 of his last fights were attempts to recover the world’s middleweight title….losing twice to Gene Fullmer….one by a TKO knockout in 14 at San Francisco….and the other by a TKO knockout in 12 in Fullmer’s home state of Utah….and then also later, when he lost a 10 round decision to defending world champion Paul Pender….the last fight of his professional career….retiring with a ring record of 56 wins, 16 losses and 7 draws, with 27 wins by knockout.
Even though Sugar Ray Robinson was in the twilight of his career….his three fights with Basilio were grudge fights of epic proportions.