Joey Degrandis is a fighter. He has been every since he was six years old. His older brothers brought him to the Munie Gym (the now McDonough Gym next to the Southie Court House on East Broadway) where he was introduced to boxing. When he slipped the gloves on his hands way back then, he never imagined it would become a career. With four titles under his belt, Degrandis, now 41, has just launched his newest boxing endeavor. DeGrandis Boxing – a school teaching the skills and techniques of boxing and On the Ropes – a non-profit organization that helps city kids use boxing as a tool to stay out of trouble and clean and sober. He also offers life lessons to the kids. “Surround yourself with positive people. Hang with winners and not just winners in sports but winners in life.” He teaches what he knows and he himself has learned some hard lessons in life.
Joey grew up in the D Street Housing Development during the 1970’s and 1980’s. “Back when D Street was a tough place to grow up,” says Joe. Although his childhood was rougher than most, he wouldn’t give up his early years in Southie. “The people in Southie are the best. They always are looking out for you,” says Joey. Frank McDonald – a Southie Golden Glove Champion – was one of Joey’s boxing mentors. McDonald’s skills are ones that Joey emulated. McDonald looked out for Joey and showed him the ropes. “He was an unbelievable boxer,” says Joey. “He just made some bad decision in life,” he says in regards to McDonald’s untimely death after a bank robbery went wrong. Degrandis learned from McDonald’s mistakes and worked hard to live a life he is proud of.
Thanks to lots of training, support and raw talent, Joey is the only South Boston native to challenge for a world championship not once but four times – (168) Super Middleweight, (175) Lightweight, (195) Cruiserweight in 1996 he won the USBA Super Middleweight Title. Joey’s determination and strength has allowed what he has learned from boxing to translate into a lifestyle and career where he now helps others. This is something Joey is very proud of. “On the Ropes launched on September 1st and it’s a great opportunity for me to teach kids not only boxing skills but hopefully some life skills too,” says Joey. Both Degrandis Boxing and On the Ropes will be based out of the YMCA in Cambridge. And kids from all over the city are welcome.
Joey still lives in Southie – fittingly on East Broadway across from the street from the Munie Gym where it all began for him. He lives there with his girlfriend Jodi. Originally from Ohio, Joe met Jodi – an Emmy award-winning producer from WHDH 7 News – when she was researching Joey for a story. “She is one of the nicest caring women I’ve ever meet.” Joey also lives with his pug Brody – a rescue pug and best bud. “He was abused and left for dead. But I took him in and I run with him and now he’s like a new dog. He’s the best,” says Joey. When talking about Brody the pug, Joey laughs and adds, “he’s got the same nose as me,” in reference to the dog’s flat and slightly pushed in nose. Joey and Brody can be seen walking on East Broadway daily or around Castle Island along the beach. “I love stopping by and talking to the old timers next to the skating rink. They make my day.”
Although Joey has a tough exterior and the swagger of a boxer, his heart is warm and sincere. He is a good guy who wishes to do well by others and teach others from his experiences in and out of the boxing ring. He is passionate about what he does and it shows. And that is why Joey Degrandis is our September Character of the Month.