Aug. 7, 1962-BENTON vs. GIARDELLO, in George’s own words.
by Chuck Hasson
I attended the Georgie Benton – Joey Giardello match at Convention Hall in Philadelphia with some friends and a crowd of 9,449, and I was completely mesmerized by what I was seeing in the ring. Two of the classiest, consummate technicians the middleweight division ever produced waged an exciting fight and a brilliant chess match inside the ropes.
I think the best way to tell this story is to let Georgie Benton describe what happened (who better to tell it?) that night as he told it to Boxing + Wrestling magazine (Nov. 1963 edition) with some extra input from Phila. Daily News boxing writer, Jack McKinney and Sports editor, Larry Merchant:
“[After my win over Jesse Smith] The drums were beating for a real big Philadelphia match, me and Joey Giardello. On paper Giardello was the glamour fighter. he was rated No. 4 among the middleweights, I was No. 10 but what made the fight was the fact that everybody knew I would test him. I could box with him and I could punch a bit better.
“When we got into the ring, my first impression of Giardello was that he was an old timer, not just a veteran but sort of a worn-out old guy. Soon as the fight started, I learned different. He knew what he wanted to do and he had the reflexes to do it. He was moving back but he was moving so as to make me commit myself first. Joey had the better of the first round.
Then I began to out speed him with my hands in the second round. I got him over against the ropes and buzzsawed him with a whole package of left hooks. The more he wanted to get off the ropes, the more I let him have it.
Joey came back in the third. I got off ahead of him in the fourth ! And sincerely thought I would be home free from here on. But he wasn’t surrendering. He kept his punches flying in the fifth and sixth, not hard punches but frequent punches . I was being out-busied.
So, in the seventh, I turned busy. I never let him get out of range of my left jab. Pop ! Pop ! Pop ! In the eighth I poured it on. And once more I figured it was going to be downhill. But after I had a big first minute in the ninth, he came back with a ‘third wind.’ He hustled like a hungry youngster, hooking off his jab and countering me with his right. It was no easy round for me.
Getting set for the 10th and last round, Joe Rose said : “George, get this round big, you need it.” Even when I disagree with my corner , I don’t question them. This time, I was concerned too. Giardello had given me a good scrap.
Jack McKinney : “going into the 10th, Larry Merchant and I agreed that it was anyone’s fight.”
Merchant : “The eighth and ninth were hard rounds, hard fought and hard to judge. Everyone in the joint thought that it would be decided in the tenth round, Giardello and Benton among them.”
When we came out for the 10th, I’m sure we were two fighters with a single thought : go like hell. He tried but I knew after the first exchange he didn’t have it. I opened up with both hands, over and under. I was outgunning him by more than two to one at the final bell.
The cheers came rolling down like thunder as we threw our arms around each other. It had been a sensational battle and everybody had enjoyed it. My strong 10th round took away any tension as to the decision.
McKinney : “Judge Weston saw it 46-45 for George which seemed eminently fair, but Judge Tress gave it to George 48-44, and ref Zach Clayton was incomprehensibly out of balance with 48-43. (Some of the crowd booed when Tress and Clayton’s scores were read). This ringsider agreed with Weston’s 46-45 score with the belief in Benton’s corner that George needed the tenth. UPI and colleague Larry Merchant also scored it 46-45 for Benton.”
Giardello : “I thought i could win it if I took the ninth and tenth,” I honestly thought I won both but he did land some sharp punches in the tenth. I can’t argue with anyone who gave it to George by a point, but I’m damn sure I didn’t lose by any 48-43.”
“Then I told the newspapermen another thing that was in my heart. “I’ve waited a long time for big-time recognition. But it couldn’t have been this satisfying if i didn’t know I had to beat a good fighter to earn it. I beat a real good fighter tonight . Joey is the smartest and toughest I ever fought. He surprised a lot of people tonight including me.”
As we can see Georgie Benton was a classy individual. A lot of fighters and fight followers today could learn about dignity and being gracious and respectful from George Benton. It really isn’t that hard if you have integrity.
Many years later (2001) Harry Zabelli interviewed George and tried to bait him with a couple of questions:
Harry: What was your best fight?
George: Giardello I think. Everyone came out to see it. Joe was tough. he came to fight. Man, I never saw a guy take a punch like him. It took everything I had to beat him.
Harry: But no title fight after he won the title from Tiger.
George: No, but it had to be his management. Joe would fight anyone, anytime.”
Still the class act, still the gracious and respectful winner to his toughest and greatest foe…