His father Ray Negron was at ringside with actor Danny Aiello at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn Tuesday evening and Joseph “Flaco” Negron went to work on getting his first Daily News Golden Gloves title. The 25-year old construction worker during the day trained hard to get there at the Mendez Gym in Manhattan, and of course there was the war of words with a veteran trainer who has been there.
“I felt the energy,” Negron said after his three-round novice 178-pound decision win over Josiah Rivera a rugged amateur fighter representing FDNY Boxing. When his hands were raised that signified Negron joining an elite class of fighters who went on to successful professional careers in the sport.
His father leaped into the ring and put the gloves around the neck of his son. Ray Negron has been a success story with the New York Yankees the past 43 years from bat boy to special consultant, and occasional author who was taken in by late owner George M. Steinbrenner after seeing him at the age of 17 doing graffiti on the side of the old Yankee Stadium on River Avenue.
Negron had tears. There was a new champion in the family.
“I can only say that I had tears because it was so much the spirit of the Boss (Steinbrenner) again,” said Negron who took the train ride up from the Yankees Tampa Florida training complex to see his son win his championship bout. He has been overseeing the progress of Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban left handed fastball artist who is a few weeks away from returning to the team from a 30-game MLB suspension stemming from an alleged incident of domestic violence.
Steinbrenner, as he once did with Ray, always took an interest when it came to the well being of Negron’s sons. There is John, Godson of Reggie Jackson the Yankees Hall of Famer, and Ricky a draft pick of the San Diego Padres last June.
“He touched them in so many ways,” said Negron about how the Boss was instrumental in making sure his sons did not graffiti walls, as he did, or get into any other illegal activity that are a part of a youngster growing up in the big city.
After proudly putting the 10-Karat Gold Gloves around the neck of his son, Negron said about Steinbrenner, “I could see his spirit protecting him the whole night.” And in boxing, a sport where you are told to protect yourself at all times, “Flaco” as he is known, followed those instructions from veteran trainer Elliott Ness who now has nine Golden Gloves champions.
During the fight and after, Negron, the Yankees executive was answering text messages from Chapman and another Yankees fastball artist out of the pen, Dellin Betances who wanted to know the results. Chapman, an avid follower of the sport, used to train with the gloves in Cuba and sent a video to Joseph as he prepared for his championship bout that came after advancing in the tournament with three decisions and a bye.
Take into consideration that this was only the 11th amateur fight for Negron who came off the street and started at the old Kingsway Gym that was nearby. Mendez became the new gym and Ness, as every trainer is to a fighter, became the second father. Ness also had a difficult life growing up as a youngster on the streets of Harlem and the inner city and knows the trials and tribulations of getting to the top.
Ness said about his fighter, who will enter the tournament again next year in the open class competition, “He put up good fight. He fought one of the toughest in the tournament. He’s still green and finding things about himself.”
The learning process continued with success Tuesday night and in the spotlight at the Barclays Center. Under the hot lights, and with family, co-workers and numerous friends, Negron listened to instructions in between rounds.
“He has the real old school in him to hit and not get hit,” said the new champion about his trainer. Now, Negron is in that elite group that went on to fame after getting those elusive gloves including the late Hector Camacho, Juan LaPorte, Iran “The Blade” Barkley, and Aaron Davis from the Bronx, and heavyweight Riddick Bowe to name a few.
“I did not use the jab as I wanted to,” Negron said, “I wanted to put my hands down cause the guy was heavy and I did not want to overpunch. I have that street fight mentality and had control.”
Joseph and his father, after being away from each other for six years never lost contact. He spent most of his young life living down in the St, Petersburg Florida. There, he got into mischief and also did some spray painting on walls but boxing a sport that offers discipline, and listening to what his father said got Joseph to the pinnacle of a prestigious amateur championship.
The judges saw that Negron was connecting more when he threw the jab and took control of the fight in the last two rounds of a bout that consists of three, two-minute rounds.
In the Golden Gloves program that is sold with funds going to Daily News charities, finalists are asked a few questions that are published in the fight program. It becomes a testimonial as to how they got to the finals.
Joseph Negron had this to say about Ness, a father who saw his 29-year old daughter lose her fight to brain cancer: “The importance of a coach plays a very big part. I learned over time and fight by fight building my confidence as he had to remind me every day as much as it was a fight for me to listen and I had that problem since a baby, hard head…but again it’s all dedicated to him.”
He added, “Over time he’s taught me a lot and what I dedicate every fight is to his daughter also leaving two beautiful kids behind, Damien and granddaughter Gabrielle and she put up a real fight. The day of her funeral really touched me and that’s where I kept my word to myself and my team to win this year’s gloves”
The next day, Negron said “Coach was in that gym. And that’s where I knew I owed this man. But as he taught me most important, I have to owe myself. So I thank him and we here now. Team Mendez.”
After signing out and officially holding the gloves in his hands, Negron walked down the hallway at Barclays Center that led him to the room where he prepped with Ness before the big fight. The first thing he did when he saw his trainer was give Ness a hug.
But there was more:
Joseph Negron, the newest member of this elite Golden Gloves championship club put those Golden Gloves around the neck of his trainer and said, “Your commitment. We are like a team. You earned it. You yelled at me every day…All I had to do is listen.”
Ness was speechless, and held back the tears as he proudly hugged his new champion. The proud father, Ray, who knows about champions and accomplishments knew his son would overcome adversity as he once did from those days when the Boss took him in.
“Joey was always in the background,” Ray said. “The way his brothers stepped up to support him…and he has gone to the forefront to be the champion.” The sport of boxing, and this tournament that has been around 88 years has another success story.
Joseph will accompany his father with other Yankees ballplayers to numerous area hospitals and visit disabled and sick youngsters in the weeks to come. He does that every year with some of his responsibilities as a Yankees executive. Champions are crowned everyday but this one was that more special.