THE TOUGH, gritty Giardello slowly but steadilty fought his way up the ranks until he won the world middleweight title -- at the end of his 16th year as a pro. But Giardello, whose real name was Carmine Tilelli, was a Rocky story.

He turned pro in 1948 at age 18. He fought primarily in Philadelphia, and built his record, and reputation in the "City of Brotherly Love" and other East Coast towns. In 1951 he entered the world rankings with a 10-round decision win over contender Ernie Durando in Scranton, Pa. With the exception of one year, 1955, Giardello would fight and beat at least one ranked contender every year until 1966.

In 1952-53 he waged a thrilling three-fight series with future Hall-of-Famer Billy Graham. Every fight was decided by the judges, with Giardello taking the first two. In the second fight, a spilt-decision win, two New York State athletic commissioners changed one judges scorecard and the verdict went to Graham. But Giardello sued and the decision was eventually reversed.

Giardello remained a top middleweight but couldn't secure a title shot. In 1959, he spilt a pair of 10-round decisions with future champ and future Hall-of-Famer, Dick Tiger.

He received his first title fight against Gene Fullmer in April 1960. But after 15 rounds in Bozeman, Montana, the fight was declared a draw. He didn't get another opportunity until December 7, 1963, when he defeated Tiger over 15 rounds in Atlantic City.

He had one successful defense, a unanimous decision over Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in 1964, then lost the title to Tiger via points in Oct. 1965.

Giardello had four more fights before retiring in 1967. He was a top middleweight for 15 years and had an admirable 5-3-1 record against fellow Hall of Famers.

Born: July 16, 1930
Died: Sept. 4, 2008
Bouts: 133
Won: 100
Lost: 25
Draw: 7
NC: 1
KOs: 32
Induction: 1993
Joey Giardello