Gene Fullmer, the middleweight boxing champion known for a brawling style and an ability to shake off punches and remembered for his title fights with Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio, died on Monday in Taylorsville, Utah. He was 83.
His death was confirmed by his nephew Larry Fullmer, who told The Associated Press that his uncle had dementia and, most recently, a bacterial infection. Fullmer was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., in 1991. At his death, he was cited by its executive director, Edward Brophy, as “one of the shining stars of the Golden ’50s boxing scene.”
Fullmer reigned when fight clubs abounded and Friday night fights were a television staple.One of three brothers who fought professionally, he won the middleweight championship at Madison Square Garden in January 1957 by unanimous decision over Robinson, often cited as boxing’s most brilliant pound-for-pound fighter.
In a bout described by The New York Times as a “bitter, savage fight,” Fullmer kept moving forward, battering Robinson with both hands, and knocked him down in the seventh round. Robinson sought to tie up Fullmer in clinches, biding his time for a knockout blow that never came.Robinson won the title back by knocking out Fullmer in the fifth round of their May 1957 bout.
“Robinson’s best punch was any punch he could hit you with,” the website Boxing.com once quoted Fullmer as saying. “But I felt without doubt that if I could beat him once, I could surely beat him again. I felt that if I put more pressure on him, I could maybe knock him out.
Fullmer won 55 bouts (24 by knockout), lost six times and fought three draws.
He was born on July 21, 1931, in West Jordan, Utah. His father, Lawrence, had done some amateur boxing, so his mother, Mary, named him for the heavyweight champion Gene Tunney who was quite popular at the time.
When Gene was 6, his father gave him a pair of boxing gloves, and he was fighting in youth exhibitions at 8. After boxing as an amateur, he turned pro in 1951.Aside from his boxing career, Fullmer operated a mink-breeding ranch in Utah. He also joined his boxing brothers — Don, a middleweight, and Jay, a lightweight and welterweight — in operating a boxing gym.
Don Fullmer died in 2012. Jay died five days before Gene.
Jay Fullmer (1937-2015): An injury ended his boxing career, but not his contribution to the sport | KSL.com
Information on Gene Fullmer’s survivors was not immediately available.Fullmer once told The Deseret News of Salt Lake City that he “wouldn’t change a minute” if he had to do everything over again., but, he added, “I might have ducked Robinson’s punch in that second fight.”