Rubin Carter (born May 6, 1937) was a middleweight contender in the sport of boxing during the 1960s, whose subsequent life has been raged with controversy to this day. To some, Carter is a glaring example of the racism that existed in the United States during that time, and to others, he is viewed as an individual who ultimately escaped justice for crimes they believe he committed. Carter grew up in a racially-charged atmosphere in Paterson, New Jersey and had experiences growing up that affected him for the rest of his life. It should be pointed out that Carter came from a very good family. He never wanted for anything as a child and of the seven Carter children, only he became a criminal.
Carter had an extensive criminal record even before 1966. In fact of the first 29 years of his life, eleven were spent either in juvenile hall or adult prison. Carter escaped from a reformatory in 1954 and joined the United States Army. After basic training at Fort Jackson, he was shipped to Germany. Carter became interested in boxing during this time and won several service bouts. However, Carter was not a good obiedient soldier. He was court martialled four times for charges ranging from insubordination to being AWOL. In April 1956, the Army dismissed him as "unfit for military service".
Carter was arrested for his reformatory escape when he returned to New Jersey after his discharge. He served an additional year in reformatory and was released in 1957. He obtained a job in a factory, but then begin to drink heavily. On one night during this year, Carter went on a crime spree where he robbed and brutally beat three people. For this crime Carter spent four years in Rahway State Prison.
Carter resumed his interest in boxing while incarcerated and went professional upon his release in September 1961. His aggressive style and frequent appearances in the ring (he sometimes fought twice a month), drew attention and he quickly established himself as a contender. When he decisioned perennial contender Holley Mims in 10 rounds on December 22, 1962, he entered Ring Magazine's list of the top 10 middleweights in the world. The accolades for Carter, who was now known by his nickname of Hurricane Carter, continued in 1963. He fought six times, all against top-notch opposition, and won four. Still, he remained ranked in the lower regions of the top 10 until his last fight, on December 20 of that year, when he shocked everyone by knocking out past and future world champ Emile Griffith in the first round. Carter had cruelly taunted Griffith before the bout and called him a homosexual.
That win made Carter the No. 1 contender for Joey Giardello's world middleweight title. He won two more fights, in one of these he won a decision against future Heavyweight Champion Jimmy Ellis, and then challenged Giardello on December 14, 1964 in Philadelphia. Carter fought well by all accounts, and some observers believed he deserved the victory. However, Giardello retained his title on a 15-round unanimous decision. Carter was gracious in defeat and didn't protest the judging.
Carter's performance in 1965 was a mixed bag. He fought nine times that year and won five, all against contenders. But against the top middleweight contenders he faced, Luis Rodriguez, Harry Scott and Dick Tiger, he lost four of five. The next year brought more of the same, and by the summer of 1966, Carter's inconsistency had dropped him to a world ranking of ninth.
In June of 1966, Carter was arrested on suspicion of being involved in a triple murder at the Lafayette Grill in downtown Paterson. Although an eyewitness injured in the shooting said that Carter was not involved in the crime, he was convicted of it and sentenced to life in prison. He continued to maintain his innocence, however. He won a retrial on the charges in 1976, but he and his alleged accomplice, John Artis, were again convicted and Carter resentenced to life.
Carter and his supporters continued to fight the conviction, accusing the Paterson police of a racist conspiracy against Carter. Finally, in 1985, Carter was freed when an appellate judge ruled that he had not received a fair trial. This time, prosecutors chose not to try Carter a third time, and he has been free ever since.
In 2000, a movie about Carter's life, The Hurricane, was made starring Denzel Washington as Carter. The movie has become almost as controversial as the man himself, beginning with its opening scene where Carter's loss to Giardello is portrayed as a racist robbery. Giardello sued the movie's producers for libel and won a settlement. Although many film critics praised Denzel Washington fine performance and the film was considered technically well made, some people have criticized it for taking liberties with the true facts of Ruben Carter's life. Some examples cited as painting inaccurate portrait of Carter are the fact that it does not even mention Carter's 1957 assault conviction, his dismissal from the service or the various crimes he committed as a juvenile (in one he beat an old man and stole his watch). Another area of controversy centers around the way the detective who investigated Carter for the murders is depicted as a racist, Javert-like detective named Vincent Della Pesca. The movie even implies this detective falsified evidence to convict Carter. Critics say the real detective was nothing like this and that it gives a false impression of the real detective, Vincent de Simone was a highly decorated World War II veteran and according to all accounts he was a very nice man and a fine outstanding police officer. The makers of the film claimed they made this character under creative license to represent all the injustices inflicted against Carter. officer.
Bob Dylan wrote a song about the incident called "Hurricane".
In recent years, Carter has shied away from the controversy surrounding his life, and currently lives in Toronto, Canada.
His career record in boxing was 27 wins, 12 losses and one draw in 40 fights, with 19 knockouts.