Harry Yorgey has proved that he can beat guys who aren't unaccustomed to losing. He's proved that he can work a day job–as a construction worker–and still carve out time to try and climb the ladder from local hero to contender. And perhaps most critically, he showed an otherwordly pain threshold in a 2004 fight when his jaw was broken in the second round of a scheduled six rounder, and he didn't quit.
With that level of commitment to the sweet science, TSS readers should perhaps keep an eye on the 29-year-old from Bridgeport, Pennsylvania who says he's ready to make a move in the 154 pound neighborhood.
On March 30, Yorgey improved to 18-0-1 with a first round KO of the less than sturdy James Wayaka in front of 1000 of his closest friends in Phoenixville, PA. According to Yorgey, though, his next fight will be in Atlantic City on the July 14 Arturo Gatti card against former USBA champ Mike “No Joke” Stewart of Contender fame. With Stewart lined up to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on the undercard of the June 9 Miguel Cotto/ Zab Judah showdown at MSG, that seems improbable, but the point is that Yorgey is standing at the proverbial crossroads.
He has proven himself legit in every way against his competition. But, clearly, it’s time to find some new challenges. Yorgey is hungry and eager. Asked if he’s ready to take a step up in the boxing world, he does not hesitate to respond: “I’m definitely ready now and my whole team feels that way.”
At 29 years old, time is of the essence for Yorgey. He feels stronger than ever at 154 and is certain that he merely needs a shot. If he were to fight Stewart (who generally fights at 147 or less), weight could be an issue, but he claims both parties are interested in the fight. But the biggest attraction is the opportunity to fight in front of Arturo Gatti’s Boardwalk Hall crowd.
Like Gatti, Yorgey is a throwback fighter. He describes his own style as “definitely boxer/puncher,” but he has made a name for himself by gutting it out in the ring. His defining moment thus far was his unanimous six-round decision over Larry Brothers on September 10, 2004. In Philly’s famed Blue Horizon, Yorgey showed what Philly fighters are all about: Reckless grit. Yorgey’s jaw was shattered in the second round. He did not bow out.
“It felt like my teeth were on the other side of my mouth. I couldn’t even squeeze my fist. I fought rest of fight with my hands open, almost just slapping him,” Yorgey recounted.
He recalled a doctor explaining that a nerve in the jaw was connected to nerves in his hands, making it nearly impossible for him to make a fist. Yorgey, a proud product of blue-collar Philly ‘burb Bridgeport, has been a darling of the Philly boxing community ever since.
But again, Yorgey’s competition has been far from elite. Exposure to Gatti’s enormous and loyal fan-base (who will inevitably be seeking a new fighter to sate their thirst for bloodspot soon enough) will help Yorgey develop the kind of drawing power that could elevate him to contender status.
The business of boxing is undeniably toxic. Ascension is nerve-wracking and decline excruciating, but skills still matter. Can Yorgey, a construction worker by day, really take care of business against stiffer competition? Hopefully, that question will be answered for all of us in due time.
But there’s not a trace of doubt in his own mind: “I’m compared to Gatti because I won with a broken jaw, but I don’t want to be Arturo Gatti. I want to be the first Harry Yorgey. I think I’m a better boxer. It would be an honor to fight on his card and a great shot. The junior middleweight division is wide open. Cory Spinks and Winky Wright are gone. I’m really strong at junior middleweight and it’s also the quickest title shot.”
Gotta hand it to Yorgey there. The chess-match outside the ring is every bit as scientific as the savagery inside it. And if he’s as strong at 154 as he claims, it won't be long before he makes significant noise in a watered-down division. Sly move indeed.
At this point, Yorgey remains an unproven entity. But his resume undeniably indicates that when he gets his shot, he ain’t going down easy.