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He began his brilliant professional career in 1951 and fought fifteen times, winning all fifteen, thirteen by knockout within a five month period of time during his first year. He won his first twenty nine bouts before losing his first fight, a ten round decision to Gil Turner in 1955. Two months later he reversed that decision in a rematch. 1956 was a good year for Gene as he defeated Rocky Castellani, Gil Turner (a second time), Ralph “Tiger” Jones, and Charley Humez. This set him up for his title winning fifteen round decision over the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson, January 2, 1957, to capture the Middleweight Championship of the World. On May 1 of the same year he lost in a rematch to Sugar Ray via a K.O. in round 5.
He continued to win against major competition during the next couple of years and captured the vacant NBA Middleweight Title in 1959 against the rugged Carmen Basilio in a real war, via a K.O. in round 14. He successfully defended this title seven times against Spider Webb, Joey Giardello, Carmen Basilio (in a rematch), Sugar Ray Robinson twice, (one draw and one decision), Florentino Fernandez, and Benny “kid” Paret. He closed out his fabulous career in 1963 with the last of three savage fights against the great Dick Tiger. He lost the title by decision in October 1962 to Tiger, fought a fifteen round draw in February 1963 in a rematch, and was stopped, by Tiger, in his final bout in the seventh round on August 28, 1963. He officially announced his retirement on July 23, 1964. His final record stands at 55-6-3, (24 K.O.’s). Gene was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1974.
Since his retirement he has stayed active in boxing, donating many hours of his time to helping the amateurs. He still lives in West Jordan, Utah, with his lovely wife Karen, and is the president of the Rocky Mountain Region of the Golden Gloves.