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On the day before the big Navy boxing match in San Diego, middleweight newcomer Joe Morelli is distracted by the hint of financial trouble in a letter from his foster father, Pappa Cerrano. When Joe's Navy buddies, Robert Garrells and Chris "Warthog" Novak, report to Capt. Danning that Joe is unable to concentrate on the fight, the stern captain orders Joe to quit worrying and knock his opponent out. Joe indeed wins easily and is named all-Navy middleweight champion. The champ returns home for a shore leave and is greeted by Pappa and his foster brothers, Vincent, Pietro and the older, quick-tempered Tony, who has come with his girl Lisa. Joe finds out from Lisa that Pappa and Tony must pay $3,600 by the first of the month or they will lose their commercial fishing boat, the San Gennaro . The boat's waning profits will not cover the debt and Joe returns the next day to the Massachusetts to tell the captain he must help his family and will not re-enlist for the next four-year hitch. The captain, moved by Joe's commitment, promises to reassign Joe to the Massachusetts if Joe can solve his money problems during their three months at port and then orders him to get the job done. Joe joins his brothers' daily fishing runs on the San Gennaro but when a rotten line busts, throwing Vincent overboard, Joe blows his top, blaming Pietro for the boat's disrepair and the poor catch. Upon their return to shore, Tony catches Lisa flirting with Joe, and Lisa half-jokingly admits to Tony that she loves both of them. Meanwhile at the local bar, Joe, knowing he must get more help to improve profits, offers the locals work on the San Gennaro , but no one responds. Bartender Felix explains to Joe that Tony has turned mean and no one will work with him except his own family. Joe finds Tony and suggests he marry Lisa and take a honeymoon for three weeks, but Tony, guessing Joe wants to run him off, refuses to go. Soon after, several of Joe's Navy buddies, including Garrells and Novak, receive a 24-hour shore leave and Joe enlists them to help fish for the day. Setting off early in the morning, the crew brings in a huge catch of tuna, but Tony orders them to continue fishing into the afternoon. When the men tell Joe they must return to shore and report back to their ship, Tony viciously attacks the Navy and in a fit of pique starts a fight with Joe. All stand back as the brothers pummel each other, but when Tony accuses Joe of being an outsider in his own family, Pappa belts Tony and tells him to pack his gear. That evening Tony, dejected at the local bar, overhears boxing manager Schott and professional fighter Sweeney talking about setting up a match. Tony, claiming to be Joe's manager, arranges the fight, which promises a winner-take-all purse of $2,000. However, back at the house Joe refuses Tony's proposition, and Tony, frustrated that his last attempt to save the boat has failed, storms out. The next morning Lisa advises Joe to either return to the Navy or fight to win the boat. Back on the ship the captain gets word that his Navy champ is out of shape for the fight and orders Garrells and Novak to coach Joe to a decisive victory. After much training and polishing Joe is ready, but news comes on the morning of the fight that the Massachusetts will soon be transferred west to aid forces in the Asian Pacific, forcing Garrells and Novak to return to the ship that afternoon. Worried that Joe will not win the match without experienced men by his side, Lisa reunites with Tony and persuades him to coach Joe. At the fight Joe comes out swinging hard in the first round, but is worn down and almost beaten by the second. When Garrells and Novak return and order Joe to win the match, he snaps into shape and knocks Sweeney out. With his financial trouble resolved by the night's winnings, Joe says goodbye to his family and leaves for the ship with his friends, commenting, "You can't beat the Navy."