May 20, 2011
A real life boxer in Philadelphia is finally getting a statue. Joey Giardello, an Italian fighter from South Philly who was middleweight champion of the world in the mid-1960s, will be honored with a statue at 13th and Mifflin, the unveiling of which will be Saturday at 1 p.m. Giardello was a middleweight who fought out of Philly starting in the late 1940s, and it took until 1960 for him to finally get a title shot. He fought the champion, Gene Fullmer, to a draw. In 1963 he upset Sugar Ray Robinson and became the #1 contender for the title. He won the title in a win over Dick Tiger, and held it for two years, successfully defending the title four times. One of those defenses is his most famous fight, the one against Ruben Carter that was falsely portrayed in the movie Hurricane. In the movie, Carter loses to Giardello because he’s black. In reality, he lost to Giardello because Giardello outboxed him. It was a unanimous decision, almost all writers present agreed with the decision, and Carter never protested the outcome. Tiger won the belt back from Giardello in 1965, and the South Philly fighter only fought 4 more fights before retiring.
After his retirement, Giardello spent countless hours helping with the Special Olympics. He had a son with Down’s Syndrome. As for the statue, Bernard Fernandez recently wrote an excellent piece about it in the Daily News.
PSH’s Take: Absolutely no offense to Giardello, but Philly finally gets a statue to a real boxer and it’s not Smoking Joe? No doubt that Giardello deserves a statue and I’m glad he got one, but giving him one before giving one to Frazier doesn’t seem right. It would be like making a statue of Mo Cheeks before making one for Dr. J. It’s nothing against Mo Cheeks, who we love, but…At the end of the DN article, John DiSanto, the tireless boxing fan who runs the excellent phillyboxinghistory.com and who helped make the Giardello statue happen, says, “There’s been a lot of talk about a Joe Frazier statue. A Frazier statue in Philadelphia is going to happen. It has to happen. I would hope that the Giardello statue would help get the Frazier statue done. If our motley crew can do something like this, anybody can.” Bernard Hopkins has told the Metro that he would pay for a Frazier statue if they can find a place to put it. So, uh, what’s the city waiting for?