A welterweight with a giant heart is how he'll be remembered. Boxing great Carmen Basilio, who once beat Sugar Ray Robinson, passed away early Wednesday morning. But as our Andrew Sorensen tells us, his powerhouse legacy will live on in his hometown.
CANASTOTA, N.Y. -- News of Carmen Basilio's death Wednesday morning hit hard for fans and friends alike, but especially so for those in his hometown of Canastota and at the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
"Today's a sad day in Canastota, a sad day for the world of boxing, is the passing of Carmen Basilio," IBHOF Executive Director Ed Brophy said.
"His can-do spirit is with us today. That's one of the reasons why the International Boxing Hall of Fame is here," Brophy added.
Basilio helped put Canastota on the map, both by bringing the Hall of Fame here and with his legendary reputation.
"The slugger, the tough fighter, overcome obstacles and he did that, winning the welterweight title, winning the middleweight title," said Brophy.
The Boxing Hall of Fame's flags are at half-staff for the great boxer, but the whole village is in mourning for the great person.
"Carmen never forgot Canastota," said Canastota Mayor Carla DeShaw. "He always felt home here and he was born here. He was born in the bay window of the house that sits behind me."
Canastota Mayor Carla DeShaw grew up in that same house, a house that was marked as a historic place during Hall of Fame weekend this summer.
People who met Basilio say he was just a hometown guy, comfortable with everyone in the village, including DeShaw's four-year-old nephew.
"He basically showed him... how to punch... and my little nephew was all smiles," she said.
"Every time you would see Carmen it would be fun, it would be exciting," said Brophy.
Brophy recalled Basilio was always there for everyone.
"Every year in June, for almost 25 years, Carmen was at every event," he said.
But now that he's not, the village can only look back fondly.
'It's bringing back a lot of memories, it's bringing out what he really meant to this village and what he still means to this village," said DeShaw.
Though it's a sad day, villagers say it's a little better with their memories of this formidable fighter and all around nice guy.
The Boxing Hall of Fame and village officials say they do plan to honor Basilio, but only after his family has time to make funeral arrangements.