This story, like any other, would be plenty different in another era. There was a time that the pride of Philly boxing (this side of the Hopkins family, at least) would not be struggling for a national name.
But times change. Philadelphia was once synonymous with boxing. Perhaps it still is, but it’s generally in remembrance of a golden age that has passed. Similarly, America was once the global boxing king. Alas, that ship has also sailed.
On Friday night in Atlantic City, Lightning Harry Joe Yorgey (19-0-1, 9 KOs) will square off against Luis Alberto Castillo (18-8-2, 11 KOs) in an 8-rounder at Boardwalk Hall. It is an interesting match-up for an up-and-comer like Yorgey since Castillo is 0-4-1 in his last 5 bouts and will need to beef up to fight the larger Yorgey.
Yorgey, of Bridgeport, PA (do yourself a favor and get a pizza at Franzone’s if you’re ever in town) is on the precipice of, if not stardom, then at least being in the mix as a top 20 contender (Boxrec currently has him rated 93rd) in the light middleweight division. If nothing else, he serves as a perfect example of some of the difficulties of breaking into the upper echelons of boxing.
His manager, Jim Deoria says Yorgey is, “knocking on the door and just looking for national exposure and a top 20 fighter.” He has had some limited national exposure in the past and his bout on Friday has a decent shot of making it to air on Friday Night fights, but he is essentially a regional act still. But where is the competition? A smaller man who is 0-4-1 in his last 5? Is this how you move up?
Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as it should be (you know, like if boxing had any sort of reasonable governing body).
His team has had difficulty getting any of the guys rated ahead of him to fight unless there’s big TV money involved. Yorgey still lacks the pull to swing something like that and his reputation in the circuit scares away many other fighters who have already found the golden goose.
A date with Raul Frank was all but set until Frank’s court battle with former Olympian Terrance Cauthen ruined that potential shot at legitimacy for Yorgey. Yorgey’s not bitter (Frank pursued the case to get a shot at Cory Spinks), but is certainly getting antsy. The man lives in the gym and like any athlete wants to test his skill.
A reflection of his work ethic is his unabashed confidence. The 29 year old feels that his time is now.
“It’s frustrating for me and my management. But for me, it’s like, you’re ready to fight this and then they pull out. I’ve gotten used to it, but it’s still frustrating. I’m still ready to fight anyone. I’m ready for a big name like Mosley, Mayorga, and Raul Frank. I’d love to get a top-10.”
He and his people will continue to try and make that happen, but in the meantime he will continue to fight the man in front of him. With any luck, he will impress this weekend in AC, not only with his exciting style, but also with the crowd support he will surely get. Yorgey has a loyal fan base that will gladly make the trip down the shore on Friday night.
Does he feel any added pressure to impress and knockout Castillo on Friday night? “Every fight I want to finish guys quick,” he offered. “But you can’t ever look to finish a guy off quick--- that’s when you get hurt. If I see him hurt, I’ll try like hell to finish him off, though, and hopefully my power will show. But I’m not worried about going in and knocking him out. Anyone can knock anyone out.”
Yorgey can’t be blamed for fighting smart and somewhat measured, but despite the low KO ratio he is always a crowd favorite and generally the aggressor in the ring. He is familiar with Castillo, but says he never watches video of his opponents since every fight is a unique set of circumstances. “I look at what’s in front of me and react,” said Yorgey. Not a bad idea, I suppose.
A new edge for Yorgey is that he recently began working with a nutritionist. “I thought I was eating right until he showed me,” Yorgey explained. “He counts my carbs and protein intake. He took away whole milk, egg yolks. He has me eating more, but healthier. It takes my game to a whole ‘nother level.”
A whole ‘nother level. Hopefully that level is just another fight or two away for the quick, self-described boxer/puncher. At the very least, he and his supporters deserve to find out where he stacks up. While he continues knocking on the door of legitimacy, he will have to settle for knocking down opponents we all know he has outclassed. And that’s a shame. But as long as he keeps plugging away, good things will surely happen.