Home Boxers Fights Arenas Non-Boxers Gyms Relics More About Contact


By Chuck Hasson


My greatest boxing thrill was watching Joey Giardello beat Dick Tiger for the title, with my Dad, at Atlantic City's Convention Hall. Dad surprised me with two tickets to the fight as a present for my 17th birthday.  I had idolized Joey since watching him on the tube KO top contender Bobby Boyd (a recent winner over Fullmer and Eduardo Lausse) in 1956 when I was nine.

I followed his career closely, used to hookey from school with my friends to watch him "train" at Passyunk Gym in South Philly. What a show he put on at the gym, good natured "ball busting " with his Paisans. His refusal to listen to his trainers, Joe Polino, then Adolph Ritacco. They were always looking for Joey to show up and would have to track him down, and usually found him in the back room of some bar or candy store on Passyunk Avenue involved in a card game (some that lasted for days), smoking cigarettes and shooting down a little booze.

I saw him box "live" seven times, even crashing the gate with my buddies and hundreds of other fans to view his fights with Robinson and Carter. In both instances, word was flashed in the lobby that all the $3.00 tickets were gone and the furious crowd just stormed the doors, overwhelming the helpless security guards on duty. Some fun memories.

Joey was a great guy and one of the toughest that ever entered a ring. He was one of the top craftsmen in the business but had many sensational brawls in his career as well. One thing I always remember about him was that he was the best "eye feinter" I ever saw. He could feint a guy out of position with his eyes - truly old-school shit.

How tough was Giardello? A little Philadelphia boxing lore: back in the 1950's when Philly gym wars were at their peak - a very rugged Philly boxer was sparring with Giardello and getting a little more rambunctious than was necessary (trying to "take" Giardello's "name"), when Joey finally nailed him (Joey could punch when he found it necessary) and flattened him - and then "put the shoes to him."  For the rest of his career nobody ever took liberties with Giardello in a Philly gym.

One more thing I want to mention about Giardello: when he was serving time in 1955 for the gas station incident, his father, who Joey idolized, passed away. Joey was brought to the funeral parlor under guard. Joey was so upset about the shame he brought to his dad that he went up and swore on his father's casket that he would win the middleweight championship for his dad (this story was first broken by Jack McKinney before the Fullmer fight  and repeated by Larry Merchant after the Tiger title win).

Winning that title proved to be anything but easy due to the runaround that he got. After beating Bobby Boyd, George Gainford (Ray Robinson's manager) promised Joey a title shot after the Robinson-Fullmer fight (Jan. 1957). Of course Fullmer beat Robinson and Joey got sidelined. Then when Joey beat the feared Rory Calhoun that May, eliminating a dangerous opponent that Gainford wanted no part of, Gainford promised Joey the next shot at the title Sugar Ray had regained from Fullmer. But then the big outdoor Yankee Stadium extravaganza with welterweight champion Carmen Basilio came up and Joey was out again. Giardello had kept himself in pretty good shape (for him) during that whole 18- month stretch, staying unbeaten through 14 bouts, thinking he was next in line. However he got discouraged and blew some fights. But his readiness to take on ANYBODY always brought him back into the limelight. This is how he had gotten the shot at Fullmer and later with Tiger, and always remembering the vow he made on his father's casket that kept him going.

Rest in Peace Champ and thanks for the memories.

-Chuck Hasson