Angelo DeFendis of Avenue U in Brooklyn passed away on May 26, 2014 after a brief illness. He was born in Little Italy on September 23, 1932 to parents that emigrated from Bari Italy. Angelo followed his older brother Dominic to the 62nd Precinct Gym on Bath Avenue in Bensonhurst. In 1953, he defeated Elzie Watson to capture the prestigious New York City Golden Gloves Championship. Training under the tutelage of Jerry Salica Angelo had an amateur record of 28-2.
He turned professional in late 1953 and became an icon to the working class residents in his predominately Italian American neighborhood. A potent puncher, Angelo fought on cards in Brooklyn early in his professional career. On Christmas Eve 1956, he battled a much more experienced Ernie Durando at St. Nicholas Arena. Angelo connected with a powerful right and knocked out Durando at 2:37 of the opening round. His brother Dominic leaped into the ring to hug and kiss Angelo.
On January 21, 1957, DeFendis bested a rugged Jerry Luedee from New Haven. In his biggest bout, he competed against Canadian legend Yvon Durelle on April 22, 1957. In the opening stanza, the Brooklyn native sent Durelle to the canvas. Despite the early success, Angelo lost a close decision. During his career (18-5) he was defeated by Rory Calhoun. DeFendis retired prematurely due to a re-occurring hand injury.
After boxing, he was employed as a union steward in a construction union. Angelo worked on the building of the World Trade Center. He remained a boxing fan attending the finals of the gloves each year. DeFendis was a close friend of Al Certo the legendary trainer from New Jersey.
In his private life, Angelo married the former Yolanda Vigilante on February 6, 1954 in Brooklyn. The couple had two children named Debbie and Angelo Jr. DeFendis was predeceased by his wife and son. Angelo had four grandchildren that he cherished.
For close to eight decades Angelo resided on Avenue U. He was proud to have never forgotten his roots. He was even more proud to wear his Golden Gloved medallion throughout his adult life. (Courtesy of Rich Biondi)