One could squint and almost see them the way they once were, cleaving the air with mighty blows, weaving and dancing so effortlessly. Never mind those touches of gray at the temples, the hint of jowl or bit of belly; after all, ain't a guy got a right to ease off training after all this time? The thing was that they were back, almost as beautiful as they used to be when the world cheered them on, and it did a fan's heart proud to see the old gang. The occasion was a benefit for the Syracuse, N.Y. Heart Fund, subtitled "The Anniversary Waltz," and in such a setting one would never smite a former foe. As Billy Graham warned Joey Giardello, a man he fought three times, "Lissen, don't hit me in the mouth. I got $900 worth of crockery in there now." Ever a gentleman, Joey hit him in the belly.
The flesh was a bit weaker but the spirit was still willing. Jake LaMotta struck his Bronx Bull stance and said, "Come on, hit me." But Freddie Russo stayed out of the picture. "Not for charity, not for nothing will I go near that animal," he said.
Once 126 pounds and featherweight champion of all the world, Willie Pep (right) was still the Will-o'-the-Wisp against Ike Williams, who used to rule the lightweights. Since both were among the fanciest boxers in the game, each dared a few pirouettes.
Reviving their oldtime rivalry (Billy won one, Joey two), Graham (left) and Giardello displayed a dramatic pastiche of hammed-up aggressiveness, right down to this mock assault on the ref after Joey whomped his pal just a touch too hard in the breadbasket.
June 16, 1974
Both a welter and a middleweight—and a champion at both—Carmen Basilio battled nephew Billy Backus, a practicing pugilist, to a gentle draw. At the bell it appeared that the best-conditioned man in the ring was Jersey Joe Walcott, sleek at 60.