Billy Backus is one of two world titleholders from Canastota as he is the nephew of welterweight/middleweight boxing champion Carmen Basilio.
As an amateur, Backus won an Adirondack AAU tournament and a Niagara Golden Gloves title as a featherweight. The first part of his professional career included nine wins, seven defeats and a draw between 1962 and 1965. He temporarily stepped away from boxing in 1965.
Backus came out of his short retirement and trained and got himself into exceptional shape. He resumed boxing under the tutelage of Tony Graziano, a former manager of his uncle, Carmen Basilio. Backus’ first fight was a round one knockout of respectable contender Todd Purtell. He won 14 of his next 15 bouts, losing only to Percy Pugh, whom he later defeated twice.
In 1970, Backus was one of Syracuse’s most popular fighters and a highly-ranked welterweight. His first title fight came against champion Jose Napoles. Backus came on like a freight train and opened a deep cut above the champion’s eye. Backus earned a TKO in four rounds and became the new welterweight champion of the world.
Backus fought a couple of non-title bouts before losing his crown in a rematch with Napoles on June 4, 1971. After seven more years in the ring, Backus hung up his gloves for good. His lifetime professional record was 48 wins, 20 losses, 5 draws and 26 knockouts.
Backus remained in Canastota and served as a Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Athletic Commission.
1970: Won the World Welterweight Title by defeating Jose Napoles in four rounds
1971: Lost the World Welterweight Title to Napoles in his first title defense
1978: Lost WBA Welterweight Title to Pipino Cuevas in two rounds