Born in Canastota, New York on April 2, 1927, Basilio was one of the most respected and feared fighters of all times. Basilio learned to fight from his father and developed a style described as a "bobbing, weaving, crab-like" approach which became his trademark. Also described as a "battler" who "went to war" against his opponents, ironically, he only went to war as a boxer after going to war as a marine.
He served in the Marines in WWII, and began boxing in the amateur ranks shortly after. He turned pro in 1948, won the New York State welterweight crown in 1953, and the world championship in 1955. In 1957, he defeated Sugar Ray Robinson for the middleweight crown, but lost it back to him in a rematch in '58. He fought 3 more middleweight fights, losing the last one on April 22, 1961, and retired from boxing 3 days later with a record of 79 fights, and 16 losses. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.