Yorgey living his boxing dream

Harry Joe Yorgey fought at home for the first time since 2007. (Candice Monhollan)

Harry Joe Yorgey fought at home for the first time since 2007. (Candice Monhollan)

Every person in the crowd was chanting his name: Harry! Harry! Harry!

It was infectious as ‘Lightning’ Harry Joe Yorgey got in his last punches before the bell rang to end the sixth and final round.

It was all up to the judges to decide who would win the bout between Yorgey and his opponent, Julius Kennedy, at the Valley Forge Casino Resort on March 15.

It was the 29th fight of his 11-year professional career.

Yorgey’s dream was to become a boxer ever since his father got him into it at the age of 5.

“We’d watch fights on TV all the time,” Yorgey said. “I asked him a million questions and next thing I know, I’m in the living room in the house throwing punches. I was jumping rope and hitting the speed bag just like Muhammad Ali at 6 years old.”

Yorgey hit the gym at the age of 9 and, other than a four-year break in high school for football, has been boxing ever since.

Just a year later, he received his iconic nickname, though he wouldn’t use it until he became a professional.

“I was boxing at [Freddie Sutton’s] gym when I was a little kid and he comes in and says, ‘Man, that boy is as fast as lightning,’” Yorgey said. “I wanted to earn my nickname when I turned pro. I didn’t give a nickname until my fifth or sixth fight.”

As a kid, Yorgey dreamed of making it to the big time and fighting on television for everyone to see, and it’s something he accomplished over his career and wants to continue doing.

“When I was a little kid watching Rocky, I was hooked on it,” Yorgey said. “I was going around the house saying, ‘Dad, I’m going to fighting in Vegas. You’ll see me. I’m going to be fighting on HBO, I’m going to be fighting on Showtime.’”

His boxing career has taken him across the United States and in places like the Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pa., and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

The 35 year old has also won two international titles, once in 2008 and again in 2009.

“This gives me a chance to give back to kids,” Yorgey said. “They see my belts and say, ‘We can actually become an athlete like our dreams and conquer what we want to do.’ It gives all these kids a shot at realizing it can come true.”

The native of Bridgeport, Pa., has memorable moments from his fights, but one which sticks out is a time when his jaw broke in the first round of a bout.

The bone on the right side of his jaw was up by his ear and the left side became detached when his opponent got him in a headlock.

“I had to turn my face from the ref so he couldn’t see and punch it back in place,” Yorgey said. “It would slip out a lot and just hang, so every five punches, I was punching my jaw back into place. I told my cutman and my trainer, ‘If you stop this fight, you’re going to be in the hospital bed next to me.’”

Despite the injury and inability to talk by the third round, he ended up winning the fight.

Yorgey’s fights have decreased over the last couple of years, leaving him to have to find other means of employment to support his growing family, including his dog – a boxer aptly named Lightning.

On top of training and his occasional fights, he works for Anthony Contractors and trains MMA fighters at Renzo Gracie Pa Academy.

“When I was fighting on TV consistently, I didn’t have to work,” Yorgey said. “I was making money fighting and training twice a day. I’ve got to provide for my family. Hopefully we start making that money from fighting again where I don’t have to work.”

Regardless of what happens, Yorgey always has the support of his family behind him. His fiancée and four children were in attendance for his latest bout in Valley Forge.

They watched as Yorgey stood in the ring awaiting the score.

The bell rang again and the winner was named.

‘Lightning’ Harry Joe Yorgey won the 26th fight of his career.

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Categories: Boxing, Features, Sports

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