FOR YEARS the New York native was known as "The Uncrowned Champion." But before his unfortunate title-fight loss, Graham fought and won his way into boxing immortality as one of the top New York City-based fighters ever.
Although he began boxing in his pre-teens, he was denied entrance into the Golden Gloves because of a heart murmur.
In 1941 at age 19, he turned professional. Graham, who fought most of his early fights in New York, didn't lose until 1945, when he dropped the first of two 10-round decisions to Tony Pellone. At the time of the first Pellone bout, Graham was 52-0-6 (19).
He entered the world welterweight rankings with wins over Aldo Minelli and Terry Young. In 1949 he dropped a 10-round decision to future lightweight king Paddy DeMarco. His next major bout was a 10-round decision win over Kid Gavilan in 1950. Later that year he lost a points decision to Gavilan over 10 rounds. Shortly after, Gavilan won the vacant welterweight title over Johnny Bratton, setting up a third fight with Graham.
Although many in attendance at Madison Square Garden on August 29, 1951, thought Graham dominated the champion, the judges gave Gavilan the decision. It has been alleged that because Graham's management wouldn't sell an interest in his contract to underworld figures, the verdict was fixed.
Graham got another shot at Gavilan a year later in Havana, but lost a clear cut decision. It was his last world title fight. He fought for three more years, retiring in 1955. He had 10 fights against Hall-of-Fame opposition (3-6-1) with wins over Gavilan, Joey Giardello and Carmen Basilio.
Born: Sept. 9, 1922
Died: Jan. 22, 1992