Many people would describe Joe Dwyer as a consummate politician, but the recently appointed NABF president wholeheartedly disagrees with that assessment. Politicians are too often known for playing fast and loose with the facts or for sacrificing their personal integrity in the interest of political expediency.
Dwyer, who served 34 years with the NYPD, many of them as a union board member, and was also a longtime judge and chief inspector for the New York State Athletic Commission, is too principled to ever willingly allow himself to be painted with such a broad brush.
“While growing up in Brooklyn, there was a very clear delineation between right and wrong,” said the 70-year-old Dwyer. “It was always important for me to do the right thing, and I like to think that my principles have served me well.”
As an amateur boxer, Dwyer won 56 of 59 bouts and was the middleweight champion of the Sixth Fleet while serving in the Mediterranean in the U.S. Navy. In 1957, on the night he was to turn professional at the Fort Hamilton Arena in Brooklyn, the promoter told him that someone other than his longtime trainer, Al Morales, would be working his corner.
When the 20-year-old Dwyer insisted on utilizing Morales, the promoter denigrated the trainer with an ethnic slur. Dwyer refused to fight that night and wound up never lacing up the gloves as a pro.
“I think I could have had a good pro career, but it was a matter of principle,” said Dwyer. “The promoter’s comments gave me an idea of what might lie ahead. I know how strong-willed I am, and things could have gotten ugly if I was exposed to that kind of prejudice.”
After a few years of working on the docks, Dwyer joined the NYPD in 1961. He was soon assigned to the Plainclothes Unit, where he investigated a gang war involving the notorious Gallo brothers. What has come to be known as the Gallo War is now the subject of a bestselling 2009 book called “The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld” by Tom Folsom.
“Every morning I would have coffee with Albert Gallo, whose name on the street was Kid Blast,” said Dwyer. “We spoke in generalities, but it was my way of keeping on top of things. The Gallos didn’t have much respect for the law, but they had respect for the job I had to do because I was always a straight shooter with them.”
As a boxing guy, Dwyer also earned a well-deserved reputation as a straight shooter. That was evident in 1997, when he scored a fight for unheralded Maurice Harris against Larry Holmes, the heavily favored former heavyweight champion. Although outvoted by the other judges, boxing purists realized how much Dwyer understood the nuances and intricacies of the sport. He was applauded for seeing beyond Holmes’s lofty reputation and calling the fight correctly.
“That was my best moment as a judge,” said Dwyer. “Harris had a nominal record, but he deserved to win. I remember being surprised by how much Holmes’s skills had eroded.”
As president of the NABF, which he describes as “the Triple A of professional boxing,” Dwyer plans on being proactive when it comes to making meaningful fights. He believes that anyone he deems worthy of holding such a title should be within reach of fighting for a WBC crown.
The fact that such past, current or potential future world champions as Muhummad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Kelly Pavlik, Andre Berto, Samuel Peter, Andre Ward, Yuri Foreman and Yusuf Mack have held the NABF crown backs up that assertion.
“The NABF title has always been considered just a notch below the world title,” said Dwyer. “I am determined to enhance the reputation of the belt and re-establish the prestige it once held.”
Dwyer cites the fact that 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward is a current titleholder, and that many boxing insiders give him a good chance of emerging victorious from Showtime’s super middleweight tournament.
Dwyer brings much-needed credibility to a sport that is so often maligned or ignored by the mainstream press, as well as the sanctioning bodies that are the subject of even more sustained vilification.
Never at a loss for words or lacking an opinion which he is more than happy to share, Dwyer is known for being brutally honest and candid, sometimes to the point of being, in his own words, abrasive. But nobody has ever accused him of the slightest impropriety or of not having the best interests of his beloved fighters at heart.
“My reputation was built on integrity and fairness to everyone: fighters, managers and promoters,” he said. “Anyone in this business will tell you that.”
Promoter Gary Shaw, who despite having had many disputes with Dwyer over the years, has praised him as “a straight shooter” who always “told it like it was.” Moreover, said Shaw, “he played by the rules and treated everybody fairly.”
Dwyer, who has been married to his lovely wife Linda for nearly half a century, believes that police work has prepared him well for whatever challenges might come his way.
“In boxing and in police work, you live and die by your reputation,” said Dwyer. “It’s great to have a lot of friends, but if you are doing your job well you have to make some enemies along the way. As far as I’m concerned there is no greater legacy one can leave than their good name.”