Tony Di Marco, the sluggish welterweight of the 1950s and the pride of Boston’s largely Italian North End, though he only held the world championships for 70 days, died in Boston on Monday. He was 89 years old.
His death was announced by the International Boxing Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2019.
Sometimes called the miniature Marciano for undefeated heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, De Marco was always sure to unleash a furious barrage of punches, win or lose.
“The boy has courage and determination,” wrote Boston sports columnist Dave Egan. “Like Marine in Iwo Jima and Douboy in Verdun. He’s so remarkably popular not because he’s the world’s biggest award winner, which he is, but because he’s so courageous.”
De Marco won the World Welterweight Championship from Johnny Saxton at the Boston Garden on April 1, 1955, when The referee stopped the match in the 14th round With a dazed Saxton on the ropes after de Marco knocks him down with a two-handed attack.
“As for true boxing, Tony showed no finesse,” The New York Times reported. “It is doubtful whether he used the left jab. He only leaned forward, tilting his left head and body and trying to pound the body closer.”
But Di Marco’s most remembered battles were his feud with Carmen Basilio.
Basilio captured De Marco’s championship on June 10, 1955, stopping him in Round 12 of a fierce fight at the War Memorial Auditorium in Syracuse. He defeated De Marco again in November in a title defense at the Boston Garden, before a crowd of more than 13,000 Ring magazine called Fight of the Year.
After the eighth round of that second fight, De Marco was ahead on all three cards, and Basilio broke his left hand. But De Marco was exhausted by the flurry of punches he had delivered, and the referee stopped the bout after De Marco lost in Round 12 and was unable to get back up.
De Marco won over major welterweights such as Chico Vejer, Kid Gavillon, Gaspar Ortega (who defeated him twice), and Don Jordan. He retired in 1962 with 58 wins (33 by knockout), 12 losses and one draw.
Tony Di Marco was born Leonardo Liotta on January 14, 1932, in Boston. His father, James, who owned a shoe repair shop in the North End, and his mother, Giacombina, were Italian immigrants.
When he was 11, he began boxing for the Boys’ Club of Boston and won the state boys’ championship for 100-pounders. At the age of 15, he was brawling with professionals, but he was three years old to obtain a professional license. He solved that problem with the help of a priest and an 18-year-old friend whom he had identified.
In a 2011 interview he told the Cyber Boxing Zone website, “I went downstairs to see Father Mario, who gave me a fake baptism certificate and I asked for the certificate to name another child named Tony De Marco. ‘Was borrowed.”
“Of course, Father Mario – the nice guy he was – thought I was using it to get a job, not to become a professional fighter at 16.
“Anyway, shortly after that the real Tony De Marco tells me he was going pro. I said, ‘What name are you fighting?’ He said, ‘Tony DeMarco.’ I tell him, ‘You can’t have this! Choose another name.’ So they named another kid named Michael Termini, who also wanted to be a supporter, but had to take his brother’s name. So the three of us were fighting, all from the same neighborhood, all using someone else’s name. were.”
De Marco turned pro in October 1948, when his actual age was 16.
His ideal middleweight champion as a teenager was Jake La Motta.
Boxing.com quoted De Marco as saying, “I tried to fight like him, just bullying and mobs.” I’m not a boxer. never was and never will be. I don’t like answering and counter-arguing and trying to be fancy. I tried it when I first started out and was almost killed. “
De Marco was a wine salesman for several years after retiring from the ring, then moved to the Phoenix area, in hopes that the hot, dry climate would ease his 8-year-old son, Vincent’s asthma. He opened a cocktail lounge there.
In June 1975, 14-year-old Vincent was hit by an auto while riding a bicycle and died. De Marco later returned to the Boston area with his family and became a security officer at the Statehouse.
De Marco’s survivors include his wife Dorothy, Boston Boxing Promotions said.
De Marco is not forgotten in the North End, where there is a Tony De Marco Way. In October 2012, a bronze statue depicting De Marco throwing a left hook, a creation by sculptor Harry Weber, was unveiled.
“Never in my wildest dreams,” De Marco told the crowd that respected him that day, “did I ever imagine that all this would happen to me.”