Many people would describe Joe Dwyer as a consummate politician, but the 34 year NYPD veteran does not agree 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 on the PBA board for much of his storied career, 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 now 70-year-old Dwyer who was recently named president of the North American Boxing Federation (NABF), a ratings organization that he describes as the Triple A of professional boxing. “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. On the night he was to turn professional, in 1957, 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. He has never looked back.
“I think I could have had a good pro career, but it was a matter of principle,” he said. “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. The war is now the subject of a bestselling 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.”
Dwyer joined the New York State Athletic Commission in 1983, and served as a judge and chief inspector under four different commissioners. His best moment as a judge came when he voted for unheralded Maurice Harris in a bout 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.
As president of the NABF, Dwyer brings much-needed credibility to a sport that is so often maligned by the mainstream press. He believes that police work has prepared him well for whatever challenges lie ahead.
“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.”
Robert Mladinich is the communications director for the New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association. He can be reached at: email@example.com.