Carmine Orlando Tilelli?


“I had no amateur fights,” stated Carmine O. Tilelli, the voice on the other end of the telephone. This was news to me because in all my research, this relevant fact was omitted. Having covered the former bantamweight champion, Joltin’ Jeff Chandler, my first boxing article, I knew that it was possible to have limited experience and rise to the top of your profession. Jeff turned professional after only two amateur fights. But to have had zero amateur fights and a professional record of 100 wins – 25 losses – 7 draws – 1 no-decision with 32 knockouts; winning the world middleweight championship along the way – that was something else. Who is Carmine Tilelli?

Carmine O. Tilelli is the name on the birth certificate of former middleweight champion and Boxing Hall of Famer, Joey Giardello. Born in Brooklyn in 1930, Giardello grew up in a tough neighborhood and loved to fight. At sixteen years of age he joined the Army, using the name of his childhood friend, Joey Giardello, because he was too young to be an enlisted man. After leaving the army at eighteen, he visited a friend in Philadelphia. Without any money and a love for fighting he went to a gym, got a trainer and shortly afterwards turned professional. He made $35 for his fight and he recalls thinking he was rich. It was 1948 and that was a lot of money. Gasoline was 26 cents per gallon; the minimum wage was 40 cents per hour; the postage stamp was 3 cents; and the price of a car was $1,550.

“I never thought that I would be champion, however, I kept winning and the next thing you know, I won the world championship,” stated Joey Giardello. Our conversation was shaping up nicely and I could feel the warmth and sincerity resonating in his voice. Here we were, two boxing purist reminiscing about his fight days and the good old times. I was having one of those moments; you know the kind when you have to pinch yourself because it is surreal. I was talking to Joey Giardello, the man who took the great Dick Tiger’s middleweight championship – the same man who defeated Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Having read about Joey Giardello and having the opportunity to interview him made writing about boxing my dream job.

Continuing the conversation, he let me know that Dick Tiger was his toughest fight because, “he took a good punch and gave a good punch.” It should be noted that they fought four times with Giardello winning the second and third meetings. It was their third match in 1963 that Giardello won the world middleweight championship. He defended it against Carter in 1964 before losing a fifteen-round decision and the championship to Tiger the following year.

Giardello would fight for two more years, winning his final bout – a ten round decision over Jack Rodgers in Philadelphia on November 6, 1967. After retirement, he went into private business and resumed using his given name. Over the years, he has kept a low profile, resurfacing only to sue the producers of the 1999 movie Hurricane, who attempted to portray his victory over Rubin “Hurricane” Carter as a fix-– a decision that Carter never disputed at the time. Giardello won a reported six-figure settlement.

George Headley Hanson Jr. is a former four-time Pennsylvania State amateur champion. His column, “The Mouthpiece,” can be found in Boxing Beat Magazine and on The Fight Countdown. He is also color commentator for the Boxing Ringside Series broadcast out of Philadelphia. Mr. Hanson interviewed Joey Giardello in June 2007. Giardello died on Spetember 4, 2008.

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