SALT LAKE CITY — Gene Fullmer, a former middleweight champion and member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame whose 55 career victories included two wins over Sugar Ray Robinson, has died, his nephew said Tuesday. He was 83.
Fullmer suffered from Alzheimer's disease and dementia for years and died Monday while fighting a bacterial infection, nephew Larry Fullmer said.
"I want him to be remembered as a gentleman and someone who loved the sport, but he loved people, too," Larry Fullmer said. "If you ever look at any clips of his fights or see any interviews, you'll never see any arrogance or cockiness or pride about his accomplishments. ... He was always a gentleman and never spoke ill of any of his opponents."
Fullmer turned pro in 1951 and defeated Robinson in 1957 to win the middleweight title. The two fought four times, with Fullmer going 2-1-1. He lost the title in a rematch with Robinson, but regained the vacated title in 1959 by beating Carmen Basilio. He defended it seven times.
He was named the Boxing Writers Association of America's "Fighter of the Year" in 1961. He retired in 1963 with a 55-6-3 record, including 24 knockouts. Fullmer was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.
Gene's brother Jay, who was also a professional fighter, died last week from complications from chronic lymphocytic leukemia and was buried Monday. Gene died later in the day in a care center in Taylorsville, Utah.
"When they told him that Uncle Jay died, it was almost like the light switch turned off and he went downhill immediately after that," Larry Fullmer said. "He probably recognized that his brother had died and that didn't help things."
The hall of fame in Canastota, New York, was flying its flags at half-staff in Gene Fullmer's honor and executive director Edward Brophy called and spoke with Larry Fullmer.
"A tough and rugged middleweight champion, Gene Fullmer was one of the shining stars of the Golden '50s boxing scene," Brophy said in a written statement. "The Hall of Fame joins the boxing community in mourning his passing and extend our condolences to the Fullmer family."
Boxing long played a big role for the Fullmer family. Gene was president of the Rocky Mountain Golden Gloves for a time while his brother Don was vice president and several family members were on the committee. The brothers ran Fullmer Brothers Boxing Gym in South Jordan, Utah. The family plans to raise money to keep the gym open and free for children.
"It's been a big part of our lives and we've tried to keep a legacy going," Larry Fullmer said.
Funeral services were pending.