Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Hurricane: Rubin Carter

By Peter Silkov

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a top middleweight contender in the 1960s, whose career was cut short by a murder conviction that would see him spend almost 20 years in jail for his alleged involvement in 3 murders.

Carter was born on May 6, 1937, in Clifton, New Jersey. Rubin was a troubled child, who struggled with a severe stutter that he would not overcome until his late teens.  At the age of 14 he was convicted of assault and sent to Jamesburg Home for Boys.  Three years later, he escaped, and while on the run enlisted in the army. It proved to be a turning point in his life and while in the army, Carter took up boxing for the first time. Rubin would eventually leave the army with a record of 51-5 with 31 knockouts.  However, Carter still found himself falling into trouble and in 1957, he was jailed for 4 and a half years for his part in an assault and two robberies. 

It was following his release from this period of incarceration that Carter finally began to take boxing seriously, making his pro debut on September 22, 1961, with a 4 rounds split points win over Pike Reed. From this point, Carter’s rise was a little less than meteoric. His ultra aggressive style attracted the fans, he would stalk his opponents, and when in range throw punches in vicious combinations. A fearsome demeanor equaled Carter’s knockout power in his fists. Some 20 years before it became fashionable for fighters to shave their heads, Carter sported a bald dome, a goatee moustache and beard, and the same kind of baleful expression that was worn by Sonny Liston. By 1963, Carter was a one of the most feared contenders in the middleweight division, with impressive wins over Florentino Fernandez, Holly Mims, Gomeo Brennan, George Benton, and Farid Salim. On December 20, 1963, Carter scored a sensational 1st round knockout victory over Emile Grffith, who at the time was the World welterweight champion and would go on to become a two-time World middleweight champion as well. Griffith certainly felt that he had been run down by a hurricane on that night of December 20, 1963. It would prove to be Carter’s greatest night in the ring.

Following his defeat of Griffith, The Hurricane started clamouring for a title fight, and in the mean time, out-pointed Jimmy Ellis, the future World heavyweight champion. Carter got his title shot on December 14, 1964, when he met Joey Giardello for the World middleweight title. Giardello was a 34-year-old veteran who was considered to be years paste his best, and many expected Carter to be too young and strong for the battle scarred champion. However, it was not to be, Giardello produced a boxing clinic, using all his skills and the experience of over a decade as a professional, to out-box and at times, out-punch the fearsome challenger.

Rubin Carter & Dick Tiger
The loss to Giardello seemed to have done something to Carter, whether it damaged his confidence or focus is not clear, but certainly Carter seemed to have peaked, and then began the long slide downhill that happens to all fighters. The Hurricane himself would blame the post-Giardello fight slump in his form upon the increasing harassment, which he was receiving, from the police and media by this time.

Following the Giardello bout, Carter would be 7-7-1 in his last 15 bouts. Carter was still a hit with the fans, and there was no shame in his point’s defeats to Luis Manuel Rodriguez, Harry Scott, Dick Tiger, and Stan Harrington, but he no longer looked like an invincible fighting machine, storming towards winning a world title. 
Then on June 17, 1966, an incident occurred which would change Hurricane Carter’s life. Two white men and a white woman were shot dead at the Lafayette Grill in Paterson. Carter and an acquaintance, John Artis, were pulled over within the hour and questioned. What followed was a case of tremendous twists, turns, and complexity, which still raises heated argument today.

Rubin Carter would have one more fight while free on bail, being out-pointed by Juan Carlos Rivero on August 6, 1966. It would turn out to be The Hurricane’s final fight.

On May 27, 1967, Carter and Artis were both sentenced to three counts of life in prison. In a debacle, which would include a second trial in 1976, when the pair were convicted again, Carter was not freed from prison until November 1985. In the mean time, his case had become a cause attracting worldwide attention, with support from celebrities from the sports and entertainment world, such as Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan.  Rubin Carter’s case became an illustration of the many wrongful imprisonment cases that occur all too often, and more often than not, due to the colour of a person’s skin. While in jail, Carter brought attention to his cause with his biography “The 16th Round”, which recounted his life and boxing career, and protested his innocence. 

In 1988, a third trial was finally cancelled and the indictments on Carter and Artis finally dropped. After his release from jail Carter would spend his time giving support to other victims of injustice in Canada and America, and giving speeches about his life and experiences.  In 1999, a film “Hurricane” starring Denzel Washington was released about Carter, focusing upon his boxing career, and his wrongful imprisonment.

After his death Rubin Carter is still a controversial figure, with some people still questioning his innocence, whatever the truth, there is no denying that Rubin Carter has highlighted the problem of wrongful imprisonment in a way that was never achieved before and upon such a large scale.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s final record was 27(19koes)-12-1.

 Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

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