Mike Waters Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY
They called him the Golden Boy and his fights regularly sold out arenas from Syracuse's War Memorial to New York City's Madison Square Garden.
In a career that spanned the 1940s and '50s, Joey DeJohn thrilled audiences with his penchant for the knockout - or getting knocked out. Armed with a devastating left hook, DeJohn fashioned a record of 74-14-2 with 52 victories by knockout. Of his 14 career losses, 10 were by knockout.
DeJohn, the most exciting boxer the city of Syracuse has ever produced, died at Oswego Hospital on Friday. He was 81.
"Joey DeJohn, in my opinion, was one of the most exciting fighters I've ever seen fight," local boxing historian Don Hamilton said. "He's one of the few fighters who could sell a place out and lose and then a month later, take another fight and sell the place out again. "He was an incredibly dynamic fighter to watch win or lose."
DeJohn was inducted into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. DeJohn was one of the famed boxing DeJohns, a tight-knit band of brothers, all of whom boxed except for oldest brother, John, who managed his brother's career along with that of boxing Hall of Famer Carmen Basilio.
In 2000, Joey DeJohn and the rest of the DeJohn brothers - John, Lou, Tommy, Mike, Carmen and Ralph - were inducted into the Syracuse Urban Sports Hall of Fame. Lou and Tommy are the two surviving brothers. Unlike fighters of today, Joey DeJohn fought often. He racked up 31 fights in 1947, winning 29. He went 16-0 in 1948 winning on knockout 11 times. That's a 45-2 record in just two years.
"I did knock out a few guys," DeJohn said at his Hall of Fame induction in 1997. "I hurt them pretty bad."
DeJohn's style spawned a loyal following of fans. He drew a record crowd of 11,700 to Syracuse's old MacArthur Stadium for his 1949 fight with Lee Sala. His 1952 match with champion-to-be Robert Villemain at the War Memorial sold out in four hours.
Most ring observers agree that DeJohn had the talent to win the middleweight title. But by his own admission, DeJohn undercut his title hopes with a lack of training. He smoked a pack of unfiltered cigarettes a day during the height of his career.
Even still, his fights were something to see. When he fought Sala at MacArthur Stadium in 1949, Basilio, the future welterweight champion of the world, fought on the undercard. After his bout, Basilio skipped his post-fight shower, preferring to return to ringside to watch DeJohn fight.
DeJohn knocked Sala down four times, the last coming in the early seconds of the sixth round after a savage left-right combination. Sala somehow got off the canvas. DeJohn moved in to finish him off. Sala threw a wild left hook that caught DeJohn in the jaw. The punch fractured DeJohn's jaw, cracked two teeth and ended the bout. In the rematch at the War Memorial, DeJohn knocked out Sala.
On February 25, 1949, DeJohn fought Pete Mead in the headline event at Madison Square Garden. DeJohn knocked Mead down twice- in rounds three and five - but Mead stopped DeJohn in the seventh. Over 50 years later, Ring Magazine rated the DeJohn-Mead fight as one of the 10 best at Madison Square Garden. In May 1949, DeJohn took on Jake LaMotta in a wild eight-round fight at the New York State Fairgrounds Coliseum. DeJohn went toe-to-toe with The Raging Bull. In the eighth round, LaMotta knocked DeJohn down three times, forcing stoppage of the fight.
LaMotta recalled DeJohn's punching prowess in an interview with The Post-Standard in the mid-1990s. "He threw those 'wow' punches," LaMotta said.
Last edited by Sharkey; 05-11-2008 at 11:20 AM.