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Former middleweight champ, Hall of Famer Giardello dies at age 78

9/7/2008 - Boxing

CHERRY HILL, N.J. -- Boxing Hall of Famer Joey Giardello, a former middleweight champion who sued filmmakers over a depiction of a title bout against Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, has died. He was 78.

Giardello died at a nursing home in Cherry Hill on Thursday, the International Boxing Hall of Fame said in a statement. He had been suffering from congestive heart failure and diabetes, Giardello's family told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Giardello won the middleweight belt with a 15-round decision over Dick Tiger in December 1963. After a pair of non-title victories over Rocky Rivero, Giardello successfully defended his title against Carter. Giardello lost the title to Tiger in a 1965 rematch.

Giardello retired in 1967 with a pro record of 101-25-8, including 33 knockouts. Born Carmine Orlando Tilelli in Brooklyn, N.Y., Giardello started his professional career after moving to Philadelphia in the late 1940s. He was inducted into the boxing hall in 1993.

The December 1964 fight between Giardello and Carter was part of the 1999 movie "The Hurricane" starring Denzel Washington that told the story of how Carter served 19 years in prison after being convicted in 1967 of three murders. The conviction was later overturned.

It was the movie's depiction of the bout, which suggested that Giardello had won a unanimous decision unfairly, that sparked a federal defamation lawsuit from the former champ.

He settled for undisclosed terms with Universal Pictures, Beacon Communications and Azoff Films.

"For 19 years, I fought the greatest fighters around and I beat Carter fair and square," Giardello told The Associated Press in 2000. "I just wanted to set the record straight, and I think it has been."