Three boxing organizations are holding a fundraiser Sunday to erect a statue of a late world champion a block from his former training facility.
Joey Giardello's ring record resulted in his induction in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993, but come this spring, the love from South Philly will result in his likeness being enshrined on Passyunk Avenue.
For more than a year, three city-based organizations -- the Veteran Boxers Association, Harrowgate Boxing Club and Philly Boxing History -- have been planning the creation of a statue of the late Giardello, a former resident and famed boxer, Project Manager John DiSanto said.
"He was a great subject matter because everyone who heard about it said, 'Wow that's a great idea,'" DiSanto, who runs the Web site www.phillyboxinghistory.com that documents the sport's local history, said.
The middleweight who held the title for his weight class from '63 to '65 will be remembered daily when the statue that also will list other local boxers and venues finds its home in May on Passyunk at 13th and Mifflin streets near Giardello's former training facility -- Passyunk Gym at Passyunk and Moore Street.
"It's a very vibrant part of the neighborhood because people are crossing over to buy their newspapers and lottery tickets and people probably sit there and read there, people eat their lunch or smoke a cigarette," DiSanto said. "I was really drawn to this location because it means the statue won't be tucked away somewhere."
By holding fundraisers throughout the year, the groups have raised close to 70 percent of the needed $75,000 to keep the project on track, he said.
"A lot of the money we raised has been the regular guy sending in his check for $50 or sometimes more," DiSanto said.
The next fundraiser will take place 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Waterfall Room, 2015 S. Water St. Tickets are $50 and must be purchased by today; none will be available at the door. The event will consist of a buffet dinner, open bar and a silent auction of memorabilia. The event also will recognize Geno's owner Joey Vento for his $20,000 contribution to the project -- the largest to date -- and Mike Fera, of the Cement Masons Union, who has actively raised cash for the project.
Giardello's long-time friend Carmen "Bartsy" Bartolomeo has been fundraising locally for the project.
"They asked me to be the legman down in South Philly," the Broad and Ritner streets resident said. "No problem, because Joey is a great person and great boxer, so it was a great combination."
The two met at now-defunct Passyunk Gym, as Bartolomeo is a former pugilist, and he has had no issues approaching old friends about the statue.
"The younger people know of him," he said. "My age group in the 70s -- that's an easy one. It's like mentioning Joe DiMaggio."
Giardello was born Carmine Orlando Tilelli in Brooklyn in '30. He used a friend of a friend's -- the actual Joey Giardello -- identification to join the Army when he was 17. After a brief stint in the military, he moved to 11th Street and Moyamensing Avenue where he learned to street fight, never having had a real amateur bout prior to turning pro at 18.
Compiling a record of 101-25-7 in a 19-year career, Giardello is considered one of the best middleweights to come out of Philly. On Dec. 7, '63, in his first world title shot, he defeated Dick Tiger in 15 rounds for the WBC and WBA middleweight belts in Atlantic City. He defended it the following year against Rubin "Hurricane" Carter before losing it in a rematch with Tiger in '65. After competing in just four more fights, the 37-year-old retired in '67.
He married Rosalie Monzo in '50 -- the two would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary Oct. 29 -- and lived with her parents on the 2600 block of Warnock Street for the first two years of their marriage. The couple and their four sons -- Paul, Steven, Carman and Joey -- resided on the 3100 block of Juniper Street until the '60s when the family relocated to Cherry Hill, N.J. After retiring, he often would hold benefits for mentally handicapped children, as Carman has Down syndrome.
Many local icons are remembered via colorful murals painted on the sides of buildings. Mario Lanza, Al Martino and Eddie Fisher are just a few of the many famous faces who continue to overlook the South Philadelphia streets.