Monday, December 7, 2015

Remembering Joe Velez: An Inspiration to the Sport of Boxing

By IDran James

Remembering….Joey Velez June 23, 1925 - December 7, 2002

The Joey Velez story is one of those epic American tales of a boxer who, despite many obstacles in his life, emerged as one of the most determined and talented boxers to come out of the Pacific Northwest. Velez was a lightweight and a featherweight contender who became very popular in the Spokane, Washington, area in the 1940s and 50s.

Born on June 23, 1925 in Seattle, Washington, Velez would have to face many difficulties in his life. When he was a toddler, ‘Lil’ Joey Velez would contract polio at 17 months. As a result, his left leg was deformed and it would not be until he was five years old that he would be able to walk with crutches, and at 9 years old, he was able to walk unassisted. This was not the end of his health problems. At the age of 10, he would catch pneumonia, and then tuberculosis. He would spend 18 months in hospital, missing more of his childhood that had already been mostly taken away because of his childhood illnesses. Despite this adversity, Velez would go to the gym and overcome his health issues through physical training, which included boxing at the local YWCA.

Like most people that were affected by the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, Joey tried to sign up for the armed services, and do his duty for his country. When the Navy and Army turned Velez down at the start of WW2, he would turn to boxing. As an amateur, he would fight many times on military bases and was driven by the anger he felt because of the rejection from the armed forces. He had a very successful amateur career and turned professional in 1947. He would adopt the name ‘Lil` Joey Velez’ in the Pacific Northwest and because well known and respected in boxing circles. His physical disability never was a problem in the ring, and for a man that had so many health problems as a child, his reflexes, and skill did not reflect any of those problems of the past.

Velez would go on to fight such fighters as Joey Dolan, Buddy Washington, Harold Dade, Henry Davis, Pinky Cowan, and George Dunn. Velez would fight until 1953 with a final record of 33 (14kos)-5.

Photo: Jodi Velez-Newel
After he retired from boxing, Velez was successful as a teacher, boxing instructor, graphic artist, and entrepreneur. On December 7, 2002 he died of natural causes. His daughter, Jodi Velez-Newell, has created a wonderful tribute to her Father that is one of the best tributes we have seen. Please check out her site, it is very informative, creative, and a great chronology of the life of a boxer.We could have gone more in depth about his life, but nothing could top her tribute. Please follow the link to her site:

Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes


  1. Hello, IDran, I just found this tribute while searching my dad's name. Thank you so much for posting this. Jodi Velez-Newell - Southern California.

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