Rio Tinto Kennecott (Kennecott) once employed two legendary boxers, heavy weight brawler Lamar Freeman Clark (Deseret News [DN] 8 November 2006) and middleweight champion and hall of famer, Lawrence Gene Fullmer (IBHF, 2002). Both fighters were managed by Marv Jenson of West Jordan (Salt Lake Tribune [SLT] 22 April 1960:45).
Lawrence Gene Fullmer
Two Time Middleweight Champion
Boxing Hall of Famer
(55 wins-6 losses-3 draws)
Lawrence Gene Fullmer was born July 21, 1931, to Lawrence “Tuff” Fullmer and Mary Emma Iff, in West Jordan Utah. Fullmer’s mother named him Gene, after the boxer Gene Tunney who she thought was handsome (Drew 2017). Fullmer began his boxing career at the age of 12 under the tutelage of Marv Jenson. During his early years and even during his professional boxing career, Fullmer worked many jobs, including a stint at Kennecott Copper Corporation where he was employed as a welder. He started his professional boxing career in 1951, the same year he was drafted to fight in the Korean Conflict (Drew 2017, Obituary. Salt Lake Tribune 30 April 2015).
Fullmer’s first professional fight was with Glen Peck, which he won with a knockout in the first round. In fact, he won his next 10 fights with knockouts. Fullmer fought his way through the ranks with very few losses and eventually earned a shot at the Middleweight Championship in 1957. The match occurred on the evening of January 2, 1957, at Madison Square Garden in New York. His opponent was the fearsome Sugar Ray Robinson whose record at the time was an amazing 140-4-2. Fullmer won the fight in 15 rounds by unanimous decision; thus, becoming the new Middleweight Champion (BoxRec 2021; Durham [DS] Sun 3 January 1957:15; Ottawa Citizen [OC] 3 January 1957:11). He didn’t hold on to the title for long. Four months later, on May 1, 1957, Robinson recaptured the title with a one punch knockout in the fifth round (Daily Herald (DH) 2 May 1957:6; Goldstein 2015), a punch often described as the “perfect punch” (IBHF 2022).
On August 28, 1959, Fullmer regained the Middleweight Title in a bout with Carmen Basilio that he won by technical knockout in the fourteenth round (Eureka Humboldt Standard [EHS] 29 August 1959:12; Democrat and Chronicle [DC] 29 August 1959:18). Fullmer successfully defended his title seven times. His opponents were Spider Webb, Joey Giardello, Carmen Basilio, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson again, Florentino Fernandez, and Benny Paret. His matches against Robinson ended in a draw in the first fight and a win by decision for Fullmer in the second (BoxRec 2021, IBHF 2022)
Fullmer lost the title by decision in October 1962 to Dick Tiger in 15 rounds. Two rematches with Tiger in 1963 ended with a draw in the first fight and a loss for Fullmer in the second (BoxRec 2021, IBHF 2022). In the second rematch Fullmer took a beating and Marv Jenson, Fullmer’s manager, had the referee stop the fight in the seventh round (Arizona Daily Star [ADS] 11 August 1963:39; IBHF 2022). Fullmer retired after the fight with Tiger (IBHF 2022).
Fullmer retired with a total of 64 fights under his belt. He won 55 fights (24 by knockout), lost 6 and drew three. In 1991, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHF 2021). Following his boxing career, Fullmer settled back down on his West Jordan, Utah property where he continued farming, raising mink (Duncan et al. 1995), and racing quarter horses (Obituary. Salt Lake Tribune 30 April 2015). Fullmer, with his two brothers Don and Jay (both professional boxers) played crucial roles in the formation of the Rocky Mountain Region Golden Gloves. In 1978, the Fullmer brothers opened the Fullmer Brothers Boxing Gym, originally housed in an old chicken coop in Riverton. The gym was later relocated to the Salt Lake Fairgrounds in South Jordan (Drew 2017). A recreation center in West Jordan is named for Fullmer (Gene Fullmer Recreation Center https://www.slco.org/gene-fullmer/).
Lawrence Gene Fullmer passed away on April 27, 2015, in West Jordan from complications due to Alzheimer's disease. Fullmer was 83. He was survived by his wife, 6 children, 10 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren (Obituary. Salt Lake Tribune 30 April 2015).