Basilio, who captured world championships in two divisions, was one of the most popular fighters of his era. His heart and desire coupled with a tough, gritty style won him world titles and endeared him to boxing fans in the 1950s. His enduring legacy prompted his hometown of Canastota to honor him with a statue more than two decades after he retired.
After receiving an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, Basilio, the son of an onion farmer, turned pro in 1948. Despite some hard-fought losses early in his career, Basilio gained national acclaim in the ring. Basilio's first world title bout came against Kid Gavilan. He dropped Gavilan in the second round but Gavilan narrowly beat the count and recovered to win a 15-round decision. Undeterred, Basilio continued his quest for a world championship. He went 9-0-2 in his next 11 bouts.
Basilio realized his dream of winning a world title on June 10, 1955 in Syracuse as he defeated welterweight champ Tony DeMarco in a bloody affair that was halted the 12th round. In 1957, Basilio set his sights on the middleweight crown and its owner, Sugar Ray Robinson. Despite giving away advantages in height and reach and sustaining heavy punishment including a badly cut left eye, Basilio defeated Robinson for the coveted title on Sept. 23 at Yankee Stadium. Basilio earned "Fighter of the Year" honors in 1955 and 1957 from the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Basilio retired from boxing at age 34 in 1961 finishing with a career record of 56 wins (27 knockouts), 16 losses and 7 draws. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in his hometown of Canastota in 1990. He also served as the Director of Athletics at Le Moyne College from 1961 to 1980.
1955: Defeated reigning champ Tony DeMarco to win the world welterweight crown; Named "Fighter of the Year" by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
1957: Defeated reigning champ Sugar Ray Robinson to win the world middleweight crown; Named "Fighter of the Year" by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
1990: Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame