Historic Golden Gloves champion tells his story

Historic Golden Gloves champion tells his story
January 25
03:00 2018

Woodrow Haney was the first African-American Golden Gloves champion in the state of North Carolina.  With Black History Month quickly approaching, he felt it was time to tell his story. 

Haney is a Winston-Salem native that grew up on Patterson Avenue.  He says most of his friends were into the game of basketball, but because of his height, he quickly realized that was not the sport for him. 

He was introduced to boxing by renowned local trainer Austin Benjamin at the Patterson Avenue YMCA.  Haney knew from the start that he might have found the sport for him in boxing.  Haney would become such a good fighter, he would have to fight adults as a teenager.

“Mr. Benjamin said ‘well come on in’ so I went in and started boxing as a young man and then I just got better and better,” said Haney. 

At the time Haney began to develop his craft, the AAU (Amateur Athletics Union) had been integrated, so he was able to compete against the best in the state regardless of color.  Haney was the first African-American in the state of North Carolina to win a championship in AAU competition.

1965 was quite a year for Haney as he would go on to win the National Golden Gloves Flyweight title.  He was also drafted into the U.S. Military.  He initially began his military career refueling aircraft, but following an encounter with a superior officer, he tried out for the boxing team and made it.

Haney was widely regarded as a hard-hitting boxer with a strong right hand.  He says he liked to confuse his opponents by tricking them into thinking he was a southpaw then he would switch back to conventional.  He also enjoyed body punching because, as he says, “if you kill the body the head will fall.”

“As a young man I remember Muhammad Ali would predict the rounds he was going to knock fighters out, so I would tell fighters that it would not be long,” Haney said.  “I knew the power was there and I had a devastating right hand.”

According to Haney, the boxer he idolized growing up was former middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson.  He says he liked the way Robinson “bobbed and weaved while working his way into his opponent.”

While boxing in the military, Haney had a very distinguished career.  In his four years fighting for the Armed Services, he amassed a record of 46-1.  He also was a part of the All-Service team, which brought together the best boxers from all branches of the military.  One of the boxers on that team was former heavyweight champion Ken Norton Sr.

For Haney he misses the training aspect of the sport most of all.  He enjoyed the discipline of the sport and proudly says that boxing kept him from getting in trouble as a youth.

He is still an avid fan of the sport of boxing.  His favorite modern day fighters are Pernell Whitaker and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Haney says after his career he has had sustained recurring headaches.  He says you must love the sport of boxing to be able to withstand the constant punishment that the sport brings.

“When I went into the service, it was normal to have eight or nine fights in one year versus one or two like in the professional ranks,” he said.  “What I always tell a young man about boxing is whenever you realize you are taking a lot of punishment, get out of it.”

“I have seen guys with the attributes of a punch drunk fighter because they took too many punches.  If I could do it all over again, I would train someone instead because of the punishment and the fact the promoters make most of the money.”

Haney had the chance to turn professional toward the end of his military career but instead chose to marry the mother of his children and build a life in Winston-Salem.  He says he does not regret his decision but does wonder what he could have achieved in the professional ranks.

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