VOL. 121 | NO. 200 | Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Small Business Spotlight
Ex-Boxer Swivels Back to First Love
By Zachary Zoeller
FRIENDLY SPARRING: Joey Hadley (left), owner of Hadley's Boxing Fitness in East Memphis, performs punching drills Friday with Matt Pettinger, a former student who is volunteering at the gym. -- Photo By Zachary Zoeller
In 1975 when a doctor told Joey Hadley he must either quit professional boxing or risk blindness, Hadley had to give up his first love.
"It wasn't a hard decision to make," he said.
Hadley, who was best known in Memphis for providing traffic updates on WEGR-FM Rock 103 and WREG Channel 3, retired in 2004 from the Shelby County Sheriff's Department after 29 years of service.
But his first career started in 1974 when he became a professional boxer under the tutelage of Cus D'Amato, who had trained 1956-1959 world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson at his gym in New York City.
Hadley won 122 and lost 18 fights as an amateur, but he went undefeated in his pro career, winning six matches by knockout until a poison ivy infection in his eye led to erosion of the cornea, a condition in which a trauma can cause an abrasion to the cornea's outer layer.
Hadley's Boxing Fitness
6542 Quince Road
Offers boxing classes for kids and adults at beginner and intermediate levels.
About six months ago, Hadley began entertaining the thought of getting back into the sport he had to give up more than 30 years ago.
"The doors started opening," he said. "The only other boxing gym is the Memphis Police gym, which is only for kids and is competitive."
On Saturday he held the grand opening of Hadley's Boxing Fitness at 6542 Quince Road.
Knocking out some skills
Hadley said he realizes that in the Mid-South, traditional sports such as football and baseball reign supreme among youth activities.
However, he maintains that boxing is safer than football.
"In football, you're wearing these hard pads," he said. "The guy you're running into might outweigh you by 50 pounds. In boxing, you're matched by weight."
The sports are not mutually exclusive, as boxing can develop skills useful for a variety of activities, Hadley said.
"There are so many things you can learn from boxing," he said. "Probably the No. 1 thing is to overcome fear. If you let fear control you, you become a prisoner of it. It's not just in the boxing ring. It's in all areas of life; it's in all ages of life."
Part of his instruction will be maxims he learned from D'Amato, such as, "A professional does what needs to be done no matter how he feels."
Two classes will be offered for kids - fundamentals for beginners and intermediate for experienced students.
Students will not be hit in the beginner classes, but will focus on stance, balance, throwing basic punches and how to avoid or divert punches.
"If you let fear control you, you become a prisoner of it. It's not just in the boxing ring. It's in all areas of life; it's in all ages of life."
- Joey Hadley
Owner of Hadley's Boxing Fitness
The intermediate students will engage in light contact and wear headgear, supervised by Hadley, he said. Students will apply fundamentals in learning more advanced boxing techniques and strategies, such as hooks, body punches and uppercuts.
Each course includes eight one-hour sessions and all equipment is provided. The cost is $100, and on completion, students will receive a Hadley's boxing fundamentals T-shirt.
All of Hadley's training is based in a boxing style he learned from D'Amato called peek-a-boo.
"I was fortunate to learn that style, which is basically aggressive counter punching," he said.
The peek-a-boo style consists of slipping or dodging, a punch from an opponent and quickly returning a punch.
D'Amato, who died in 1985, taught the style to boxing greats such as Mike Tyson, Jose Torres and Floyd Patterson.
Work it on out
Hadley touts boxing as a sport not about two people intent on beating each other up, but as a unique exercise regimen.
"The boxing workout is such a good cardiovascular workout that I'm expecting men and women in here who don't want to get hit, but want the workout," he said.
Boxing as a workout benefits areas such as coordination and agility, said Fabio Comana, exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise in San Diego, Calif.
"(Boxing) is an excellent high-intensity workout," Comana said. "It helps train the cardiovascular system ... and it teaches trainable skills that will benefit quality of life."
Many popular workouts use elements of boxing, such as kickboxing or Tai Bo. While boxing offshoots have come and gone, boxing has remained a popular fitness tool, Comana said.
"In fitness we're always looking for new, fresh ideas," he said. "But boxing has always been a mainstay."
Pass it on
In 1981 as a 15-year-old Kirby High School student, Matt Pettinger started working with Hadley. Pettinger learned boxing basics from Hadley and went on to compete locally until 1985.
"I was an athlete that wanted to do something other than what I was doing," Pettinger said.
Today, Pettinger is volunteering at Hadley's Boxing Fitness because Hadley made such a lasting impression on him. Pettinger helped refurbish the space, which used to be an appliance store, and will help teach some boxing basics.
"I love boxing. It's a great workout, and you can get a workout without being beat on," he said.
Pettinger sees the gym as an opportunity to pass on what Hadley taught him more than 20 years ago.
For now he'll keep helping for free.
"Everybody likes to make a little money. But that's not my goal here," he said.