Inducted on November 12, 1998

Johnny was born in Newark, N.J., on July 4, 1930. In 1947, he won the New York City Golden Gloves title and the 147 pound National AAU title. In 1949, he again won the National AAU 147 pound title. He finished his amateur career with a record of 31-2.

He boxed as a professional from 1949 to 1958. He won the World Welterweight title in 1954 by beating Kid Gavilan in Philadelphia over 15 rounds. He would lose his title to Tony DeMarco in 1955, but less than a year later he would regain the title by beating Carmine Basilio.

During his career, he also fought and beat Joe Miceli, Tony Pellone, Charley Salas, Virgil Akins, Ralph Tiger Jones, Danny Womber, Charley Williams, Joey Giardello, Johnny Bratton, Luther Rawlings, Joe Shaw, Freddie Dawson and Gil Turner.

Photo #2, Photo #3
Manager: Frankie Palermo
Trainers: Jimmy Wilson, Whitey Bimstein
As a child, Johnny Saxton bounced from relative to relative before being sent to the Colored Orphan Asylum in the Bronx. He was eventually taken in permanently by a foster mother in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

Saxton took up boxing in the local Police Athletic League. He won 31 of 33 amateur bouts, two National AAU championships, and a Golden Gloves title. He turned pro in 1949 under the guidance of Bill “Pop” Miller, who later was bought out by Frank (Blinky) Palermo for a reported $10,000.

Saxton outpointed Kid Gavilan to win the world welterweight title on October 20, 1954. The decision was very controversial and Gavilan complained bitterly about getting “the business.” His accusations were bolstered by rumors of a fix that had swirled prior to the match. The Saxton-Gavilan outcome appeared to be widely known in advance. Bookmakers in New York reportedly refused to accept wagers on Saxton. “It was an open secret,” Budd Schulberg told The Observer years later. “All the press knew that one–and other fights–were fixed.”

Saxton lost the title by knockout to Tony DeMarco on April 1, 1955 but regained it on March 14, 1956 by outpointing Carmen Basilio. The decision raised as many, if not more, eyebrows as the Gavilan fight had in 1954. The New York Times reported that when the decision was announced, “The reading of these tallies…set off a derisive din that shook the stadium rafters.”

Saxton had a rematch with Basilio on September 12, 1956. Saxton had been banned from fighting in New York State due to his underworld associations. However, Julius Helfand, Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, consented to stage the bout in Syracuse because he was convinced that Basilio could not get a fair shake anywhere else.

Basilio knocked out Saxton in the ninth round to regain the title. Five months later, Basilio defended the title against Saxton with a second round knockout.

Saxton lost three of his last four fights and retired at the age of 28.

In retirement, Saxton found himself adrift and broke. According to an April 7, 1959 newspaper article (as reprinted in IBRO Journal Issue No. 102, p. 103), Saxton had been confined to a mental hospital after his second arrest for burglary in a month. “He was placed in the State Mental Hospital at Ancora, N.J. after attempting to hang himself in an Atlantic City jail cell. He had been charged with attempting to rob a variety store. In Queens yesterday, the 28-year-old boxer, who earned an estimated total of $250,000 in the ring, was indicted for the March 4 theft of $6.20 in cash and a $100 coat from a Jamaica apartment.”

Saxton had been declared “punch-drunk and legally insane” at the time of his arrest.

In the 1990s, Saxton was found living in squalor in a New York City apartment without electricity. Eventually, he wound up in a retirement home in Lake Worth, Florida, where he was diagnosed with Dementia Pugilistica. [1]

Boxing Record: click