Benvenuti is, of course, the better boxer, but he surely had the protection of the officials. The Italians do not part with a title easily. Who can forget how Freddy Little was scandalously denied the junior middleweight title against Sandro Mazzinghi? Fullmer, it was obvious, would not be allowed to rough up Nino; the Italian referee would not hesitate to call fouls. Thus, cautiously, Fullmer stayed too far from Benvenuti too much of the time. He did manage to extract one concession from the Italian officials. After much introspection, the officials abandoned their idea of making Fullmer fight by Olympic rules; that would have made it a more ludicrous fight than it was. "We decided not to," one of the officials said later. "After Mazzinghi, the reputation of Italian boxing is at stake."
Despite all this, there can hardly be any complaint about Benvenuti. He is not a great fighter, but he is a clever, respectable champion. Oddly, for all his personal charm, he has not completely captivated the Italians themselves. There is an ambivalence in the country's feeling for him. The Italian press, which angers him perpetually, has not increased his following. Said one reporter, "Poor Nino, he has so much. But he has no culture."
Maybe not, but he does have a fine, sensitive mind—so evident the other day when he spoke of Primo Camera, the one world heavyweight champion in the history of Italian boxing.
"For us kids," he said, "Camera was the good giant, the Biblical Samson, the force we all wished to have for turning the world upside down. I saw him when I went to Sequals, the small town where he died, and spent some hours with him. He was a good and brave man, honest and less ingenuous than they wished him to be. The thing that struck me most in our entire afternoon together was his profound humanity. I should have as much."