"THIS IS THE
is the one that's going to do the real damage—the left hook digging up into the
body, my favorite punch. You've got to work inside with a big man—I'm 5 feet 6�
inches, he's six foot, that's a big difference." Basilio despises
"head-hunters" who look so spectacularly aggressive and accomplish
The hands of
Carmen Basilio are long and slender and, except for the lumps, skinned spots
and bruises which are the stigmata of his fist-fighting trade, they suggest in
no way the popular notion of what a fighter's hands should be like.
Welterweight Champion Basilio takes extremely good care of these gentle-looking
hands, padding them with foam rubber during training sessions. With them he
intends to win the middleweight championship of the world from Sugar Ray
Robinson at Yankee Stadium on the night of September 23.
points out, with the left hand. Basilio is a hooker. His right hand is good,
too, but it serves him primarily as a diversionary force, something to keep the
opponent occupied while setting him up for a left hook. He is, furthermore, a
body hooker—a truly fine infighter with the cold patience of the professional.
He knows that while head shots delight the crowd, competent infighting is most
discouraging to the opponent. Blows to the liver are painful, blows to the
solar plexus are breathtaking, and a solid punch under the heart can make a
flat-footed plodder out of a graceful, light-stepping boxer. Like, for
instance, the graceful, light-stepping Sugar Ray.
This promises to
be a magnificent fight. It will be a battle of champions, a good little man
against a good bigger man and, so far as Carmen Basilio is concerned, a bit of
a grudge battle. Sugar Ray once snubbed him. In pre-fight bargaining Sugar Ray
forced him to take 5% less than Basilio felt entitled to. Then for 10 days
Sugar Ray's histrionics and demands made it appear that the million-dollar
fight might be off, after Basilio had spent weeks training for it, after he had
passed up two $100,000 fights to get it. Sugar Ray is in for a rough night.
Basilio has been
studying movies of Robinson's fights, just as Robinson has been studying
Basilio movies. He has seen a few things and he has a plan. The plan will not,
however, involve any radical change in his style. Basilio is an infighter, a
crowder, a buzz saw, a man who wears his opponents down and outstays them. He
is master of the war of attrition.
With this kind of
attack Basilio does not, generally speaking, knock out his opponents in the
early rounds. Each of his two knockouts of Tony DeMarco came in the 12th round.
It was not until his third fight with Johnny Saxton that he-was able to put
away the former welterweight champion in the second round. The first fight went
15 rounds, and Basilio lost on a mighty peculiar Chicago decision. The second
ended in the ninth with Saxton knocked out.
Only when he has
his man worn down with a body attack does Basilio turn to the head. Like most
topflight professionals, he has contempt for the head-hunters who look so
spectacularly aggressive and accomplish so little.
That will be the
pattern of his fight against Sugar Ray Robinson. It is the pattern of a man who
is wonderfully patient, even imperturbable, until a day or so before a fight.
Then he becomes "mean." He will have something to be mean about in this
It is most likely
that a secondary consideration in the mind of Sugar Ray when he mounted his
filibuster for a bigger share of theater television proceeds was the fact that
such an act would unnerve any ordinary opponent. For nine days there was no
certainty that the fight would be held at all. Most fighters would have ranted
and fumed. Basilio did nothing of the sort. Announcement that the fight was
off—at least temporarily—came to Carmen while he was holding three kings in a
poker game at his training camp in Alexandria Bay, New York.