Inducted on November 11, 1999
Joseph Grier III
Born March 15, 1949. Married to Christine E. Grier. Father of four daughters, Michelle (33), Tamekia (27) Onekia (24) and Iyana (21). One grandchild, Anaya (2). All but one sibling has earned a college degree. Attended Eastide High School. Dropped out as a sophomore to volunteer for the U.S. Army draft in 1970. Complete high school by earning a diploma at Essex County College.
Began working for the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department in February 1974 and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Certified.
President of the Joseph Grier Boxing Academy, Inc., developed in June of 1997, where he specializes in training; Junior Olympic, Senior Amateur, Professional Male and Female, Basic Boxing Skills
and Conditioning. President, Founder and Developer of “Positive Impact Inc., a non-profit organization which develops multi-dimensional activities for children. Chartered in 1992, Impact services nearly 2,000 kids a year. Activities include football, baseball, basketball, music, dancing and many other team sports.
Began boxing at the Atlas Boxing Gym in Paterson, N.J., in 1965. Became one of the prime members of the “Magnificent Seven,” became the Mercer County Boxing Champion in 1967- 68.
Two-time N.J. Golden Gloves champion in 1969 and 1970. Junior National AAU champion in 1970
Troy, N.Y., Golden Gloves champion in 1970
Entered the U.S. Army on June 29, 1970, became a Physical Activity Specialist with aMOS ofo3c20, Fort Knox, Ky.
1971 won the U.S. All Army Boxing Championship
1971 semi-finalist in the National AAU Boxing Championships in New Orleans, La. 1971 represented U.S. Army in the Pan-American Boxing Trials in Fort Bragg, N.C.
1974 defeated, by first round KO, Eddie Piton of Argentina in Madison Square Garden 1977 defeated the Canadian champion Barry Sponagle
1978 became Assistant Boxing Coach for the United States Boxing Team in Scandanavia Trained many of the area’s top professionals, such as ESPN Champ Curtis “Troubleman” Harris, World Champ Livingston Bramble, World Champ Rockey Lockridge and Bobby Czyz.
In the Ring, Strength Is Just a Start
THE speed bags, the jump ropes, the shadow boxers dancing in front of the mirrors that lined the worn brick walls, jabbing at opponents only they could see — everything stopped when Joe Grier stepped out of his office and called his gym to order.
He was 23 narrow steps up from the streets of his hometown, in the cavernous second floor of an old riverside mill, the sanctuary from which he spreads his gospel about the transformative power of boxing. He was eager to bring more young men up with him, and grateful for the inspiration one former student provided this summer.
“As you guys know, Kendall Holt won the world championship,” Mr. Grier said, as he announced an upcoming night in honor of Paterson’s newest celebrity, the 27-year-old local boxer who was knocked down twice in the first round of a title fight in July before getting up and knocking out Ricardo Torres, winning the World Boxing Organization junior welterweight crown in just 61 seconds. “Kendall comes here all the time and busts our chops, so this gives us a chance to bust his, and congratulate him.”
Boxing grows best where grass is scarce. The greener precincts of New Jersey may be overrun by soccer fields, but Paterson still supports three boxing gyms, and a host of contenders eager to punch their way toward fame. And when one does, as Mr. Holt has, the hopes of many others are lifted.
“He’s the talk of the town, and you can see it in the kids, how they’re motivated,” said Mr. Grier, 59, whose boxing academy gained more than half a dozen new young students after Mr. Holt’s victory. “It’s not just about boxing in here. Our priority is discipline with these kids, making sure we develop them into positive citizens. We try to persuade them to do the right things for themselves.”
Anthony Boyd was circling the ring with his two nephews — Quazeir Boyd, 8, and Cory Clyburn, 7 — teaching them how to move nimbly, how to attack and escape, without tripping themselves up.
“Put your hands up — hands up, chin down,” said Mr. Boyd, 37, who bought them gloves and started bringing them to Mr. Grier’s gym this summer, during the layoff from one of his two jobs, in the kitchens at William Paterson University. He picks them up each day at 5 p.m. after finishing his other job, as a maintenance worker in the city’s Head Start facilities. His own son is just 2, but he plans to bring him here when he’s old enough.
“It helps the soul, the mind,” said Mr. Boyd, who was first captivated by boxing when he was about the age of his nephews, watching his grandfather train in the backyard of his house on East 31st Street here. “It kept me focused, it kept me wanting to do better.”
After he and his nephews stepped out of the ring and moved on to the weight room, two boxers in headgear stepped in to spar. Mr. Grier stood outside the ropes, shouting advice over the din.
“Keep your hands in front of you and punch from there,” he called. “Push him back, push him back. When you feel the guy punching from the outside, take the inside.”
Mr. Grier first stepped into a ring when he was 14, around the time his father left and his family splintered, and boxing shaped his life so deeply that he has devoted himself to shaping as many other lives as he can with it. He won some Golden Gloves titles, boxed his way across the country, through the Army and around the world as an amateur, had a brief pro career, and then became an officer with the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department. He started coaching at the Police Athletic League, and then opened his own gym 12 years ago. He has coached more than a dozen professionals, and works with some each morning in his gym, but he regards the younger boxers, the ones who come late each afternoon, as his main mission.
“Boxing is an alternative, especially for the strong young men that we have on the street,” said Mr. Grier, who retired from the sheriff’s department five years ago and puts part of his pension check into the gym each month. “That’s why we have the crime rate we do. There’s nowhere for these kids to put that energy.”
They almost lost his gym as an alternative this winter, when he was forced out of his old space by a steep rent hike. His boxers and his friends pitched in to help him find a new home and move his equipment here, so his lessons — which reach well beyond the ring — could continue.
“Some of them come in, they think that being able to punch is all there is to it,” Mr. Grier said after the sparring pair finished and he was back in his office, where he keeps a long table so that kids can do their homework. “But the world has a punch waiting for each and every one of them. They just better be able to outbox it. You can’t just punch back at it, you’ve got to box it.”
Out in the gym, the alarm that breaks each day into an endless loop of three-minute increments — the length of a round — chirped again, like a new morning. Three minutes doesn’t seem like much, but as every boxer knows, as Kendall Holt just proved again, it’s enough time for the world to change.
“Kids are drifting here, here, here,” Anthony Boyd said as he unlaced his nephews’ gloves. “They’ll drift off somewhere, messing with other people. I don’t want that. I want them over here.”
He unwrapped their hands, as they stood beside the cabinet where the gloves are stored. Taped to its side were two messages about what might lie ahead: a newspaper clipping about Mr. Holt’s victory, and a poster from Bergen County College. The alarm chirped again.