Story by Jenny Paulson – Pueblo was the home for many years and final resting place of a world-known boxing champion, Mario “Servo” Servino, who fought all the great boxers of his time including the best fighter in the world, Sugar Ray Robinson. Servo had an all-time career record of 91 wins and 4 losses. Locals old enough to remember, share fond memories of him, his wife and three children, who grew up in Pueblo.
Servo was born in Schenectady, New York November 3, 1919 and died in Pueblo, Colorado February 9, 1969. He began boxing in the mid-1930s. He turned professional as a lightweight and, in his first three years, managed a 43-0-2 record. His career was amidst what was deemed the “Golden Age” of Italian American boxers from 1900 to the 1950s.
Servo’s boxing career was interrupted by service in the United States Coast Guard during World War II. He put on boxing exhibitions and all the money raised went towards wounded veteran, according to his son, who representing himself as his father in a 2015 video that’s on youtube – https://youtu.be/TXuXCRixZwA.
Servo went back into the ring and before he knew it, after just a few matches, he went on to challenge Freddie “Red” Cochrane for the Welterweight World Championship at Madison Square Garden in 1946. There, he bloodied up the famous Cochrane, and in the fourth round, gave him a strong left hook that sent him down, winning him the prestigious title.
He was on the front cover of boxing magazines, famous in the 1940s.
Then Servo met pound-per-pound best fighter in the world, the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson. Robinson, who had never lost to a welterweight, fought Servo twice. In the first fight, he defeated Servo in a split decision so there was a rematch. He he rematch and on May 28, 1942, but Servo lost in a disputed ten round split decision. However many in the crowd thought that Servo should have won the match.
Robinson was quoted saying that Servo was “one of the finest fellows I ever fought.”
But Servo’s next decision ruined his boxing career. He and his manager agreed to fight the middleweight contender Rocky Graziano, a New York City favorite, in a non-title match in 1946. The heavier and stronger Graziano severely injured Servo’s nose when knocking him out. Servo never recovered from the injuries and he was forced to retire.
In his career he had captured the Golden Gloves and Diamond Belt Featherweight titles and in at his retirement in 1947, he was said to be the undisputed multi weight champion of the world, inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
After his boxing career ended, Servo moved to Colorado and ended up in Pueblo, where he started out working as a bartender at the White Horse Tavern and on another tavern on Union, where he met and then married the love of his life, Carol Piserchio.
He enjoyed his life in Pueblo, eventually becoming a foreman at the steel mill, CF&I. He and his wife had three children. On weekends he gave back to his community by volunteering for kids as a boxing referee.
Sadly, Servo fell ill in the early 1950s. He had multiple surgeries to remove a rare form of spinal cancer. His medical expenses were so high from various hospital stays that his savings waned. Professional boxers who knew this legend, and the owner and trainer of the Harlem Globetrotters, raised money to help him and his family.
Servo died at the age of just 49 in 1969. His funeral was held at the Holy Family Parish I Pueblo. It was televised and viewed by boxing fans throughout the world.
At Imperial Gardens, his headstone reads “Mario Servo – World Welterweight Champion.” In his obituary, Ralph Martin, sports editor of the Knickerbocker News said “Marty, whose life was a study in hardship, triumph, pain and tragedy, will never be forgotten. Champions live on.
Story by Jenny Paulson – Pueblo Independent