10. December 14, 1964, Convention Hall — Joey Giardello W 15 Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, world middleweight championship
Setting the Stage: Carter’s shocking one-round blast-out of Emile Griffith one year earlier helped lift the shaven-headed slugger toward the number-one ranking but he had proved vulnerable to stylists, such as Joey Archer (L 10). That made Giardello — a late-blooming champion at 34 and with 127 fights on his odometer — a favorite to prevail in his first defense because he mixed plenty of intelligence with his customary grit. It didn’t hurt that the fight was staged in his adopted hometown either.
What Happened: Despite the picture painted in the movie “Hurricane,” Giardello retained his title fairly and free from controversy or racism. Giardello’s educated left, still-lively legs, defensive savvy and countering skills neutralized the muscle-bound Carter’s infrequent shows of power. Carter’s best round was the fourth when he cut Giardello’s left eye and stunned him with several hefty blows. Giardello reacted as a champion should as he regained the momentum with a quick one-two to start the fifth and mixing in several looping hooks to the head.
Determined to keep his crown after 15 years of chasing it, Giardello drew upon his vast experience to out-box Carter for long stretches. The depth of Giardello’s knowledge was on full display in the championship rounds as he fluidly switched between offense and defense and kept the dangerous Jerseyite at bay.
In the end, Giardello earned a 72-66, 71-66 and 70-67 decision under the five-point must system, a verdict with which even Carter agreed. Giardello also won in the courtroom decades later when he extracted a hefty settlement for the way the Carter fight was depicted in “Hurricane,” on top of a statement from producer/director Norman Jewison that Giardello was “a great fighter.”