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Former world middleweight champion Gene Fullmer dies at 83

SOUTH JORDAN — The day his younger brother Jay Fullmer was laid to rest, former world middleweight champion Gene Fullmer passed away at the age of 83.

Just like his two younger brothers, the man nicknamed “Cyclone” died at home Monday night surrounded by friends and family. The youngest of the Fighting Fullmers, Don Fullmer, passed away in 2012. Jay Fullmer died last week.

The three Fullmer brothers — Gene, Jay and Don — all started boxing after their father, Tuff Fullmer, took them to legendary coach Marv Jenson’s West Jordan gym.

Gene Fullmer was known for his polite but no-nonsense approach to boxing. What he lacked in finesse, he more than made up for with sheer grit and power. He turned pro in 1951 and won his first 29 fights, 19 by knockout.

He won the world middleweight championship on Jan. 2, 1957 when he shocked everyone with a unanimous, 15-round decision over Sugar Ray Robinson.

Fullmer was afraid of no one and fought often while holding down a full-time job, just as his brothers did. He fought a rematch with Robinson on May 1, 1957 and lost when Robinson knocked him out.

In 1959, the National Boxing Association withdrew its recognition of Robinson as middleweight champion, and Fullmer and another middleweight champ, Carmen Basilio, fought for the title. Fullmer won that fight with a technical knockout, then three years later lost his title to Dick Tiger.

Fullmer finished his professional career with a remarkable record of 55-6-3. Of those 55 wins, 24 were knockouts.

Once he retired from boxing in 1963, he joined his brothers coaching aspiring young fighters in their hometown of West Jordan. The three men also officiated, and lived within a stone's throw of each other, as well as their parents, nearly all of their lives.

Gene Fullmer’s nephews recently discussed his penchant for practical jokes.

“He loved to pull practical jokes on people,” said Don’s oldest son, Larry Fullmer.

They reel off stories starting with how he convinced his brother Jay to suckle on a sow the family owned.

“He never did pay him,” Larry laughed.

Brad Fullmer said all of the boys in the family wanted to be “tough like Uncle Gene” so that made them easy targets most of the time.

He convinced nearly all of them to eat mink feed because he told them it tasted good.

“You always laughed at someone who got hurt first, then asked if they were OK,” said Gene's nephew, Hud Fullmer.

Those in the family who followed them into officiating and coaching said a large part of the reason was to spend time with the three brothers.

“They were always together,” Larry said. “If you ever look at any of the old films of Uncle Gene in his championship fights, the guys in his corner were grandpa, Uncle Jay and dad (Don). When Dad fought overseas for the title in Italy, Uncle Jay and grandpa (Tuff Fullmer) were in his corner.”

Gene was instrumental in helping establish a Golden Gloves Franchise in the Rocky Mountain Region. In 1961, he received the Edward J. Neil Award for Fighter of the Year. In 2007, he was the Days of ’47 Sportsman of the Year, and in 1991, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He’d been the president of the Rocky Mountain Golden Gloves franchise since 1970. Fullmer also served in the Korean War.

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