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Utah boxing legend Gene Fullmer has died

Posted at 10:59 PM, Apr 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-29 10:31:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Boxing legend Gene Fullmer has died.

He was the oldest, and last of the "Fighting Fullmer Brothers."

Gene, Don, and Jay Fullmer rose to the upper ranks of professional boxing in the late 1950s.

Gene became the world middleweight champion in 1957. Over the next six years he would defend, lose and regain the title. He and Sugar Ray Robinson faced off more than once, exchanging victories and defeats.

At the climax of Don's career, he competed for a world title, but lost.

Jay's career was off to a promising start with a record of 71 wins and one loss. But just as he was ascending into boxing's highest ranks, an eye injury stopped him. Rather than risk blindness, Jay chose to bow out of the sport professionally, focusing on his family instead.

All three brothers returned to West Jordan where they lived on the same street in houses nearly side by side, raising families.

"You could sit across from those guys. You'd never know they were world class guys, they fought in Madison Square Garden multiple times," said Chet Fullmer, Chet's son, adding "Uncle Gene came back and raised beef, he had a mink farm, dad worked up at Kennecott for 31 years, uncle Don was a fireman and a brick mason. They were just regular guys."

But to many who knew them, the Fullmer brothers were heroes in disguise.

They established the Fullmer Brother's Boxing Gym in their later years. Each brother spent an uncountable number of hours teaching young men to box, free of charge.

Years ago, Gene Fullmer described the young athletes he was mentoring at the time to FOX 13 News. "Some of 'em trouble makers, and some of 'em not. They come down, put 'em together in here and let them spar and let them find out how much fun it is to get hit. Some of 'em decide it ain't as fun as they thought, and others decide it's more fun than they thought it was. That's the way life goes."

Don Fullmer passed away in 2012. Jay Fullmer passed away just last week. Gene Fullmer, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease was told of Jay's passing, and family members say in spite of his illness, he seemed to understand.

"From the moment we told him that my dad had passed, he went downhill from that point on," said Chet Fullmer.

Hours after Jay Fullmer's funeral on Monday, Gene Fullmer died. He was 84 years old.

The Fullmer Brother's Boxing Gym, which is currently housed in a building on the grounds of the Salt Lake County Equestrian Center, plans to continue training young athletes, free of charge.