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Carmine Orlando Tilelli (July 16, 1930 - September 4, 2008) was an Americanmarker boxer who was the middleweight champion of the world from 1963 to 1965, and was better known by his professional pseudonym of Joey Giardello.

Early life

Giardello was born in Brooklynmarker, but lived most of his life in the East Passyunk Crossing area of South Philadelphia, where, as a young man, he joined many other Italian-Americans in the city in taking up boxing. He turned professional in 1948, not long after his 18th birthday. It was said that Giardello changed his name from Tilelli in an attempt to join the US Army under the legal age, towards the end of World War II. "He had a scuffle at a gas station which cost him his $100,000 Prize Fight money and five months in jail" during his early years.

Pro career

As a pro, he quickly racked up an 18-0-1 record in his first 19 fights while facing less-than-stellar opposition. He fought just three men who had previously won a fight during that time. It caught up with Tilelli on January 16, 1950, when he was handed his first defeat by Joe DiMartino, a journeyman with a 6-10 record.

After that embarrassment, he began to face better opposition and by 1951, was beating some of the better middleweight boxers on the Philadelphia scene. He continued to do so for years afterward, but was blocked from receiving a shot at the world championship by the underworld figures who controlled the sport at that time.

Giardello's fight vs. Billy Graham was the next significant bout. The decision first was awarded to Graham, then later reversed to a decision in favor of Giardello, then reversed again, some time later, in favor of Graham. This fight is known in boxing lore as "The reversed reversal."

It wasn't until 1960 that Tilelli, now known as Giardello, received any kind of championship opportunity. On April 20, he faced Gene Fullmer for the National Boxing Association version of the world middleweight title. He missed out on the title when he and Fullmer fought to a draw over 15 rounds.

Giardello lost four of his next six fights, but then came back strong with an 8-1-1 record in his next 10, all of which were over some of the biggest names in the division at that time. One of his wins, a 10-round decision over Henry Hank on January 30, 1962, was chosen as Ring Magazine's fight of the year. Then, on June 24, 1963, Giardello upset boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson, and at the age of 33, was finally named as the No. 1 challenger for the world middleweight title.

He didn't waste the opportunity. On December 7, Giardello faced Dick Tiger in Atlantic Citymarker for the title and won, taking the world championship by decision in 15 rounds and drawing with Tiger in two others.

He reigned as world champion for nearly two years, winning four fights during that time. The most notable was a December 14, 1964 title defense against Rubin Carter, which many today wrongly believe he won on an unjust decision because of the fight's portrayal in the 1999 movie The Hurricane. Carter started the fight well landing a few solid rights to the head in the early rounds, but was not able to follow them up. By the 5th round, Giardello had taken control of the fight and was awarded a unanimous decision. Boxing experts present at the fight, believed he deserved the victory, 3 - 1 and an informal poll of sportswriters present, agreed that Giardello had won. Even Carter himself, never disputed the decision at the time.[36303]

Giardello gave Tiger a rematch on October 21, 1965 and this time, the Nigerianmarker decisioned Giardello over 15 rounds to regain the belt. Giardello fought just four more times over the next two years before retiring.

Life After Boxing

After retirement, he went into private business and went back to his real name.He was an insurance salesman and later joined the Misco International Chemical Company as their New York-Philadelphia-New Jersey distributor. He had married his wife Rosalie, in 1950 with whom he had four children.[36304] He did a lot of work with the mentally handicapped, particularly the St. John of God School for Special Children in Philadelphia where his son, Carman, afflicted with Down's Syndrome stayed for ten years. He met the Pope and was invited to President John F. Kennedy's Inaugertion. With his celebrity and title he participated in countless fundraising events for the mentally retarded and contributed his time and talent to the Special Olympics founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. At one event he taught the special olympian's to jump rope.

He had a small role as a man from "The Syndicate" in the 1975 movie Moonrunners.

He later filed a federal lawsuit against Universal Pictures, Beacon Communications and Aloof Films, for unspecified damages, for its "thoroughly false depiction" of his bout with Rubin Carter in Norman Jewison's 1999 film The Hurricane. "In a key scene, the film shows a punch-drunk, blood-spattered Giardello being clearly beaten by Carter but winning a racially-tinged decision...[Giardello had] suffered only a small cut over the left eye caused by a butt in the 4th round and won what a majority at ringside thought was a clear decision over a listless Carter...." Giardello settled out-of-court for an undisclosed sum and Jewison's agreement to make a statement on the DVD version of the film that Giardello "no doubt" was a great fighter.


He died on September 4, 2008 in Cherry Hill, New Jerseymarker. [36305] He was 78 years.


He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Famemarker in 1993 and was also inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame. His career record was 101 wins, 25 losses and 7 draws, but even more impressively, he was 5-3-1 against other boxers in the Hall of Fame, including a 2-2 mark against Tiger.

An effort is currently underway to erect a statue in the East Passyunk Crossing section of South Philadelphia honoring Giardello.


  1. [1]
  3., & The Kennedy Family and the Story of the Mentally Retarded by Edward Shorter
  4. Stephen Brunt. The Italian Stallions: Heroes of Boxing's Glory Days. Sport Classic Books. 2003 p 213. ISBN 1894963032
  5. Joey Giardello
  6. Joey Giardello Statue Project. Accessed 27 March 2009.

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