He’s a champion boxer with pugilistic skills fans and peers still marvel at.
Also, driver and muscle for mob boss Frank Cotroni, one time inmate for 90 days after a bar fight, once ordered deported from Canada and eventual murder victim of a hired hitman in 2001.
All true in a kind of made-for-movies life story of a champ who came to Toronto from Portugal at five years old.
But was Eddie Melo, too, a great dad?
“Absolutely. The best,” said his daughter Jessie, now 35. “He was very protective of us.”
There were many sides to the former Canadian middleweight champ they called “The Hurricane.” But the tender, fun, caring, generous, gregarious and charismatic side gets lost in the darkness of his story that resulted in him being slain with pal Johnny Pavao at 40 years old.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat some of the negative side of my dad’s life but he was a fantastic father and someone who really wanted to help troubled young people,” said Jessie.
Now from his grave in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, he’s doing just that.
On Aug. 12, on board the Empress boat, 400 people are expected to board a $75 a ticket cruise in support of the Eddie Melo Legacy Organization, to help young amateur boxers and homicide victims’ families to remember the complicated, but much loved and respected, Eddie Melo.
Those attending the event will be remembering the ring warrior with lightning-quick hands who electrified boxing fans in 44 professional bouts in the 1970s and 1980s while raising money for today’s boxers.
“Eddie Melo filled the Montreal Forum at 18 years old. His explosive power punching style made him on one of Canada’s most exciting fighters of our time,” said boxing icon Spider Jones, who will MC the event, which will also feature entertainment by Tony Paglia and the Nomads and Errol Fisher.
Jessie, a mother-of-two, will be flying in from British Columbia for the cruise.
“I do want people to learn about the real Eddie,” she told me. “He had an infectious laugh and the warmest hugs that could make you feel completely safe, even in the middle of a terrible night terror.”
She said they “were incredibly close and I was the epitome of daddy’s girl.” He was “my best friend, my hero, protector, confidant and most of all, my biggest fan, as I was his.”
But it wasn’t always easy. And still isn’t.
“Being Eddie’s daughter was both a blessing and a curse,” she said. “I got to experience different things that my friends weren’t able to do because of who Eddie Melo was.”
Now happily married, Jessie laughs that “as a teenager, no one dared to date me knowing who my dad was.”
She went to school using a different last name and even now, has been questioned “at the borders because he was my dad.” A day after the murder, she herself ended up in handcuffs, charged with obstructing police, when they came to retrieve his car after the murder. The charges were dropped.
“My life is good but (now) I wish he had been deported because then my kids would have known him,” she said. “I feel it’s important to start this Eddie Melo Legacy Organization in memory of him to continue to honour him throughout the years and not have him be overshadowed by his horrific murder, or what people’s perceptions of him were. He was involved in various charity projects for children and they loved him, gravitated towards him because he was incredibly humble and generous.”
She’d like it if that side of her dad can reach the public.
“I had a wonderful childhood,” she added. “My dad was always such a giver and wanted us to have much more than he ever did.”
Good and bad, Eddie Melo at different times could be a bit of both.
But when it came to being a father turns out he was great.