Don Hamilton joined the Syracuse, New York, boys boxing team under coach Terry Dundon. He met Carmen Basilio at the Main Street Gym in Syracuse in 1950. Hamilton fought as an amateur around Syracuse, Buffalo, and Binghamton. His dreams of a pro boxing career were shattered by an auto accident that crushed his right kneecap, which he re-injured a year later.
He became the head boxing coach for the Syracuse Friends of Boxing, and guided Eddie (Bang Bang) Beauford to the National Golden Gloves championship. He also became an advisor to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and served on its Board of Directors. He received the Central New York Boxing Appreciation Award from the IBRO in 1997. He also served as Vice President of Ring 76, Syracuse, New York.