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Joey Giardello Takes Middleweight Title from Dick Tiger

Dec. 7, 1963 - Joey Giardello, the scarred 33-year-old veteran from Philadelphia, took the middleweight title from Dick Tiger of Nigeria tonight, boxing, slugging, and ducking through 15 grueling rounds like a man with his back against the last wall in the world. Giardello was never expected to go the distance, but his legs got stronger and his punching sharper to the swelling roar of an estimated 12,000 at Atlantic City Convention Hall’s first championship fight. Paul Cavalier, the referee, scored eight rounds for Giardello, five for Tiger, and two even. Under New Jersey rules, there were no judges for the bout, which was perhaps the most stunning boxing upset of 1963. If there had been any strategy, it was abandoned through the final four rounds — an avalanche of solid left hooks, pummeling, and apparently low blows. By the 14th, the crowd was on its feet to stay, screaming: “Take him Chubby, take him!” It’s been a long time since they called Giardello “Chubby” — somewhere back in Brooklyn or South Philly — but it must still mean something. Joey took the 14th going away, and his numerous backers in the arena smelled the title. “Jo-Jo, baby!” they yelled through a 15th round during which both fighters were wary, staying away from each other in fear of that one deal-closing punch that somehow was never thrown tonight. Then it was over, with Giardello exhausted but triumphant, possessing a lifetime record of 94 victories, 22 defeats, 7 draws, and 1 no-decision bout. “I started slow because I wanted to be sure I could go 15 rounds,” Giardello said in the middle of the wild scene in his dressing room as friends yelled and pounded him. “I wanted to make sure the legs were there. They were. I had to win it. I was nervous all day. I need this title. I must have fought this fight 90 times today. I was jumpy. I kept thinking of how to make him fight my fight. I did. I fooled around in the last round. I danced around to show him he would have to go after me. I played it safe because I was so sure I was ahead. The referee only gave me eight rounds? Well, I thought I won 11. I’ll give Tiger a return match for sure. He was man enough to give me a chance at the title. It’s 99.9% it will be him unless I get a big money offer with somebody else.” Giardello thought a little and added: “Now maybe some of those who wouldn’t give me a fight will. Maybe I’m clean now. Ask Gene Fullmer if he’ll fight me now.” This was a reference to the out-of-ring troubles Joey had a couple of years ago, when he wound up in court after a fight in a Philadelphia gas station. He was accused of hitting the service attendant. The usual prefight pomp was interrupted tonight by moments of silence for President Kennedy and for the 22nd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.


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