MAXIM, JOEY (28 March 1922-2 June 2001) was a professional boxer who held the light heavyweight crown in the 1950s, one of two Cleveland natives to win BOXING titles. (The other being JOHNNY KILBANE.)

Maxim, whose given name was Giuseppe Antonio Berardinelli, was born to John and Henrietta Berardinelli and grew up with three brothers, Emmanuel, John and Richard, and two sisters, Lucille and  Janet, in Cleveland’s COLLINWOOD neighborhood. He started boxing as an amateur at the age of 12, winning the PLAIN DEALER Golden Gloves Tournament, Chicago Tribune Tournament of Champions, East-West Tournament in New York and the AAU National Tournament in Boston in 1940. (There were no Olympics that year due to World War II.)

After graduating from Collinwood High School, he turned pro in January 1941 at the age of 18, adopting the name Joey Maxim after his manager, Doc Kearns, said he threw punches faster than a Maxim gun. In his first professional fight, he beat Bobby Berry on 13 January 1941 at CLEVELAND ARENA.

Maxim served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1945, as a fitness instructor and military policeman in Miami Beach, Fla., and also fought exhibitions. He won the light-heavyweight championship when he beat Freddie Mills in London on 24 January 1950. Maxim attempted to win the heavyweight championship from Ezzard Charles on 30 May 1951, but lost in a 15-round unanimous decision. Maxim and Charles met five times, with Charles prevailing each time.

Maxim’s most famous fight was 25 June 1952, against Sugar Ray Robinson at Yankee Stadium. Robinson, then the middleweight champion, moved up a classification to fight Maxim. Even ceding 25 pounds to his opponent, Robinson was the favorite, and the fight was the first to be shown on closed-circuit television in movie theaters. The fight was originally scheduled for 23 June 1952, but postponed two days due to a torrential downpour. Robinson, considered the best pound-for-pound fighter of all time, was leading on judges’ scorecards before ultimately being worn down by the heat (temperatures were estimated at 104 degrees). It’s estimated Robinson lost 16 pounds in the fight, and Maxim lost another 10. Robinson didn’t come out for the 14th round, and Maxim retained his title. It’s the only fight Robinson never finished.

On 17 December 1952, Maxim lost his title to Archie Moore following a 15-round unanimous decision in St. Louis. Maxim and Moore fought twice more, with Moore winning both times to retain the title. On 7 June 1954, Maxim defeated future heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson. It was Patterson’s first loss. In his last fight, on 17 May 1958 in Germany, Maxim lost to Ulli Ritter. He officially retired the next year, finishing with a career record of 83-28-4. His boxing career allowed him to provide the initial investment for a family delicatessen. Maxim’s Delicatessen opened on East 185th Street in 1949. Today (2020), it’s Maxim’s Pizza and Catering in Mentor.

Following his boxing career, he worked for a casino in the Bahamas, in construction and driving a cab in Florida, made a couple movie appearances and was briefly a stand-up comedian. He worked for many casinos in Las Vegas, including the Frontier, the Ambassador and the Marina Hotel and Casino, before retiring.

He married his wife Michaelina, nicknamed Mitchie, in 1948. They had two daughters, Charlene and Maxine. Mitchie died Dec. 4, 1977. He remarried, but he and his second wife, Lena, were divorced. After living in Las Vegas, he returned to EUCLID to live with his mother. He had a series of strokes and a heart attack in 1999, and moved to Florida, where his daughters Charlene Bagnall and Maxine Murphy, lived. He died in West Palm Beach, Fla., and is interred at Fred Hunter’s Hollywood Memorial Gardens North in Hollywood, Fla.

Maxim was inducted into the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1979, and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994. In 1989, he received the Rocky Marciano Memorial Award at the Downtown Athletic Club.

Vincent Guerrieri

Article Categories