KING OF PRUSSIA - It took him six years, but 'Lightning' Harry Joe Yorgey finally re-entered a boxing ring within his home state of Pennsylvania, and it happened to be right in his backyard at the Valley Forge Casino Resort.
Headlining as a co-main event with his bout against Julius Kennedy, Yorgey was undoubtedly the fight the crowd was waiting for as they cried chants of 'Harry!' three times in support as the fighter went on to win by a split decision.
'That's just some of the greatest things,' Yorgey said. 'You get thousands of people to come out, screaming your name and your name only.'
The bout, which was the last of seven fights on the evening, was thrilling from start to finish.
Yorgey, 25-2-1 with 12 knockouts, faced a tough challenge against Kennedy, 7-3-1 with three knockouts.
'We knew this guy was going to be tough coming in here,' Yorgey said. 'He looks like a physical specimen. I've seen film on him he just puts his head right in your chest and keeps coming.'
The fight went all six rounds, and the verdict came down to the judges. Yorgey, the hometown favorite, was the winner by a split decision.
'We stuck to my game plan,' Yorgey said. 'Boxing, moving, then walk him down and beat him up a little bit, then go back to boxing him and moving him and it worked. Yeah, the fight was close, but I won the fight hands down.'
Yorgey, a native of Bridgeport, Pa., hasn't fought in Pennsylvania since his fight against Martinus Clay at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia on Oct. 12, 2007.
He got his start from watching fights on television with his father at the age of 5. By the age of 9, he was boxing in Freddie Sutton's gym.
After a four-year break from the sport to play football, he returned at 18, and this time trained at the Phoenixville Area Police Athletic League (PAL) program.
'The founder of the PAL was Jimmy Deoria,' Yorgey said. 'Jimmy used to come to the gym where I trained at with Freddie Sutton. I was there from my amateur career through my first 19 pro fights.'
Yorgey doesn't forget his roots, though his career may take him away from time to time. In his fifth professional fight, he faced off with Matt Hill in a well-known place: Yorgey's high school: Upper Merion.
Through his career, he has won two international titles and uses his belts as a way to reach kids.
'This gives me a chance to give back to kids,' Yorgey said. 'They see my belts and say, 'We can actually become an athlete like our dreams and conquer what we want to do.' gives all these kids a shot at realizing it can come true.'
Yorgey has always wanted to reach out to children. During his time in college, he minored in psychology and majored in criminal justice in the hopes of becoming a counselor. Instead, he now uses his status as a professional boxer to give back to kids.
'I go to the schools and speak to them,' Yorgey said. 'I have this thing called 'The Ladder of Success.' You lean your ladder on the building and you keep climbing the ladder and don't let anyone pull you down. You're always going to climb up toward success.'
It's only one of the many things Yorgey does to benefit others.
To raise money for a scholarship for a child who died, the 35-year-old held a boxing night at a cigar lounge.
'Outside we set up a boxing ring and I called it 'Old School Fight Night at the Cigar Clubs,'' Yorgey said. 'We raised $6,000 and about 400 or 500 people came out.'
Yorgey hopes to return to the boxing spotlight in the future and continue his contributions to the community, and the win at Valley Forge was a step in that direction for him.
'It's a tough game,' Yorgey said. 'You've just got to find a way to win and that's what fighting is about – to come out victorious. I'm not 26-2 for nothing.'