A boxing legend and well-known mentor to generations of young people in the Morris Park community and beyond passed away recently.
Joseph DeGuardia Sr., a life-long Bronx resident and the owner of the Morris Park Boxing Club for four decades, died of natural causes at the age of 86 on Tuesday, March 8.
Thousands people he trained in his gym will miss him, said his son, Joseph DeGuardia Jr., owner of Morris Park-based Star Boxing.
Visitors from across the United States and from other continents came to pay their respects at Joseph Lucchese Funeral Home, he said.
DeGuardia Jr. said that his father taught him the sport when he was growing up and managing his boxing career that helped him both in and outside of the ring.
“The things I always heard from him is that you need to be disciplined, work hard to succeed and keep fighting when things are tough,” said DeGuardia Jr., adding that “He was very much for the underdog.”
Rather than managing fighters who would become world champions, his dad focused his energy on young fighters who had no money and needed a little bit of help, his son said.
“Many times, people felt that he was a father figure and a grandfather type of figure,” said DeGuardia Jr., adding that father was a genuine man who was from the old school of boxing.
Richard Falsigno, a friend for about 50 years, said that he was admired in the Morris Park community and would always stop to talk to people when he was on the street.
“When I think of Joey I think of a person who conformed to what was right and just,” said Falsigno. “He had an affinity for helping people who fell on hard times.”
Falsigno, a past assistant commissioner in the Department of Probation, said he would often refer probationers to DeGuardia Sr. who were ending their prison terms and in need of jobs or references to help them start again. His friend would just reach out and help them, he said.
Louie Resto, a current employee of the Morris Park Boxing Club, said that Joseph DeGuardia Sr. gave him a job and often invited him to dinner and to the fights.
“He was a role model,” said Resto, adding “I never saw him get mad at anyone.”
DeGuardia Sr. was a professional boxer from 1946 to 1953, and also founded a youth initiative called Better America Through Our Youth and operated a toy and novelty store called Clowntown on White Plains Road near Morris Park Avenue.
DeGuardia is survived by his wife Dotti, who said that her husband was a wonderful man and father who will be missed by many in the Morris Park community.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by seven children, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. One son predeceased him in 2015.
DeGuardia grew up in Belmont and on Mayflower Avenue in Pelham Bay, before moving to Morris Park in early 1960s, his son said.