The boxing world is mourning the death of legendary fighter Carmen Basilio. The former welterweight and middleweight world champion died early Wednesday morning at Rochester General Hospital, where he was being treated for pneumonia.
It seemed like just another day at Roc Boxing and Fitness Center. There were people hitting the heavy bag, while others did some sparring.
But there was a sense of sadness.
"You think Carmen's the type of guy you'd think would live forever," said Dominic Arioli, boxing coach.
They were mourning the death of boxing great Carmen Basilio. Basilo was a native of Canastota in Madison County and a charter member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He made Irondequoit his home for nearly 30 years until his death Wednesday morning.
"My work over at the Aquinas Mission Bouts; Carmen's always been there for us," Arioli said. "And the things that he brought to my kids at Aquinas is the thing that impressed me the most. He was such a giving person and all the kids there have such a positive memory of Carmen."
Those who knew Carmen well say there will never be another fighter like him. They say he was tough as nails, and a lifelong ambassador for the sport of boxing.
Basilio was a big supporter of Rochester boxing. Not only was he there for the Aquinas Mission Bouts, he rarely missed a local fight card.
"Carmen was always our biggest supporter, he was right there at ringside. It didn't matter if it was the lowliest amateur show or a nationally televised event, Carmen was always there at ringside supporting it," said Jim Cassidy, a former boxing promoter.
Many were in awe of Basilio's legendary status. He was world champion during boxing's golden era of the 1950s, but he wasn't one to talk up his accomplishments in the ring.
"He was just a regular guy. He could talk to royalty or talk to anybody the same way. He didn't even realize, or he didn't act like his greatness and how famous he was all over the world," said Ed Musicus, a friend.
Basilio's friends say his death is a big loss to Rochester boxing. Some believe Carmen is responsible for the sport's success in this community.
"We lost a treasure. One of his biggest supporters, Tony Liccione, he's the president of the Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame. Tony centered his whole Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame around Carmen. Without Carmen, there wouldn't be such a viable organization," Musicus said.
"The Hall of Fame dinner that takes place every year is always the Carmen Basilio Boxing Hall of Fame Dinner. We realize the treasure that he was and having him in this community so his name was there and he was always willing to let that happen," said Cassidy.
Funeral arrangement are pending.
Carmen Basilio was 85.