Last week I learned that Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball" apparently dissed former middleweight champ Joey Giardello with a comment about "draining the swamp" to find a worthy apponent for Dick Tiger in 1963, my response:
Dear Chris Matthews,
For your information, Joey Giardello was a great middleweight fighter according to this boxing historian:
“… play them the films of Joey’s best fights, there’s inevitably comes that moment when somebody in the room lets out a little gasp and says, ‘My goodness, I didn’t realize how good this guy was.’”
“… at his peak, which was some years before he finally got his shot at the world title, he was a genuinely great boxer fighter.”
When Giardello beat Dick Tiger (December 7, 1963) Tiger had in the previous 10 months defeated Gene Fullmer twice, in addition to fighting the former champion between wins to a 15 round draw.
In 1963 Ray Robinson wanted the shot at Dick Tiger who told Ray that he’d have to go through Giardello. Robinson couldn't. As Joey tells it about that fight, “Yeah, Robinson was old but I was old too.”
In his title defense before a rematch with Tiger, Joey beat tough guy, Rubin Hurricane Carter. Yeah, the 2000 movie, “The Hurricane” showed Carter being robbed but Carter publicly stated afterward that he didn’t win the fight. Giardello successfully challenged Universal Studios for a misrepresentation of the fight.
Even if you believe Joey wasn’t a great champion, you’d have to search hard and long for a more successful, good-hearted, and heroic former champion.
During and well after Joey’s days in the ring, he used his celebrity for the benefit of children with disabilities. Not only did he fight exhibitions but he staged two events that brought the best fighters of the 50’s and 60’s together for these children. Joey collected boxing greats: Carmen Basillio, Tippy Larkin, Chuck Davey, Willie Pep, Charlie Fusari, Billy Graham, Rocky Graziano, Chico Vejar, Jake LaMotta, Paul Pender, Ernie Durando, Sandy Saddler, Billy Conn and others. Many would attend the “Carnival of Champion” just to see the referees: Heavyweight champions, "The Manassa Mauler,” Jack Dempsey; Jersey Joe Walcott; and “Cinderella Man,” James Braddock. He gathered these fighters twice (1969 and 1972) and donated all the proceeds to charity.
In addition, Joey met with Sargent Shriver prior to the first ever Special Olympics in order to stress the importance of physical training for children with Down syndrome.
He raised money for Saint John of God School, the first school in New Jersey and perhaps the country dedicated to children with special needs.
He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Italian-American Halls; a former member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport. He’s ranked 14th among the middleweight champions of all times.
Now, Chris, aren’t you just a little sorry that you used that “empty swamp” line in connection with Giardello?
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
January 12, 2008 -- Another Tucson DS Connection outing, another huge success for organizer, hard-working Kathy Getman. The lunchtime gathering packed the establishment with DS children along side the general population of Tucson. All had fun. For those, like me, unfamiliar with Chuck E. Cheese, it’s a cross between an old fashion penny-arcade and a PlayStation 3 – Skeetball to electronic “Deal or No Deal,” -- games served along with pizza and other food stuffs. Nary a child was seen without a mile-wide smile, as well as their parents, and of course, me.