JOE HAND, SR.
Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Salesperson, Philadelphia Police Officer and Detective, Closed-Circuit Television Promoter, Concert Promoter, Boxing Promoter, Business Entrepreneur…any of these titles can be used to describe Joe Hand, Sr. at all different points in his life. Born the middle child and only son to Elizabeth (nee Ronan) and Joseph Hand on September 10, 1936. Joe Hand, Sr. was originally a junior. His father's untimely death in 1948 made him, at 12 years old, the man of the house with no need for the Junior/Senior differential until the budding business partnership between himself and his own son, Joseph III, in 1980 made the distinction necessary.
Hand grew up in the Lawncrest section of Northeast Philadelphia. He attended St. William's Elementary School and graduated from North Catholic High School in 1954. Since his widowed mother was already working a six-day workweek to provide for him and his two sisters, Elizabeth Ann and Patricia, continuing education was out of the question. At that point, Joe, Sr. went into the matriarchal family business at Ronan Motors. He started in the service department and quickly moved up the ladder to salesperson. This is where he met his future wife, Margaret Joyce. They married in June 1957.
Like his father, a former Philadelphia Police Officer, Joe Hand, Sr. entered the Philadelphia Police Department in 1959. As a new police officer, he walked a beat then patrolled the subway. While working in the subway he received a commendation for his lifesaving efforts during a fire. This opened the door for his eventual promotion to Detective. His career with the Police Department also included a stint where his services were lent out to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. Despite this illustrious career with the Philadelphia Police Department an on the job heart attack in 1975 cut short any thoughts of continuing in this field. Fortunately, he had begun paving another path in 1964 when he became a charter member of the Cloverlay Corporation. This organization helped make a young Olympic boxer named Joe Frazier the heavyweight champion of the world. This membership developed into the creation of his own business Joe Hand Promotions, Inc.
Hand's membership and close workings with Cloverlay allowed him to witness the behind the scenes action for all three Frazier-Ali match-ups. He also was present for the birth of closed-circuit television. His knowledge of this medium was unsurpassed by any one in the group. With this knowledge he was able to introduce closed circuit telecasts to the average boxing fan. For more than thirty years, Joe Hand, Sr. and his family built his organization into one of the most successful of its kind. As one of the premier promoters of Closed Circuit and Pay-Per-View television boxing in the nation, Hand's background and keen foresight in the industry are largely responsible for the growth and highly regarded reputation of his private, family-owned company.
By the time his son, Joseph III, graduated from college in 1980, Hand had thoughts of retiring. He felt he had seen it all. He had witnessed the rise and fall of many of the boxing greats, Frazier, Ali, Foreman, etc. He had tried his hand, no pun intended, at other genre such as closed-circuit telecasts of World Cup Soccer, Live Music Concerts, Athletic Representation, Traveling with Amateur Boxing Teams, even closed-circuit coverage of Evil Kneivel jumping the Grand Canyon. Now looking at the business through the fresh eyes of his son, his interest in the business was rekindled.
Joined three years later by his daughter, Margaret, the threesome continued to be a driving force in boxing promotion, both closed circuit telecasts and live events in Atlantic City. They were one of the first companies to be licensed by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to produce live boxing events when the Casinos opened. The emergence of cable television and Casino boxing shows opened new horizons for the Hand family. Ironically, it was widely believed that cable television technology would put the closed-circuit side of his company out of business
Seeing the closed-circuit side of the business dwindle was very difficult for the senior Hand as it had been his bread & butter for many years. Seeing the technology of cable television develop he believed that it could be used to bring live boxing events even closer to home for the average boxing fan. He wanted to make it easier for the fan to see their favorite fighters. Considering the rise of the ever-popular “Sports Bar” he believed a marriage of the two could be beneficial for all involved. He would use the technology to his advantage. He would bring his closed-circuit signal into any building in any way possible. Steeled with the belief that people don't always want to stay home to watch a sporting event, he knew people always found it more fun with other fans. Hand wanted to bring his signal into every “Sports Bar” across the country. As this side of the business now flourished, he also missed the excitement of putting on a live show. Atlantic City was now inundated with fight promoters and the Hand family quietly went back to it's bread & butter, closed-circuit and/or pay-per-view telecast distribution.
As time progressed and the family was making a comfortable living, Hand knew it was time to give back! He began his philanthropic works by supporting organizations such as the Special Olympics, Children's Hospital and by setting up a Scholarship Fund at LaSalle College High School. When the opportunity to take over an abandoned property in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia presented itself, Hand knew that this was the opportunity he dreamed of. He could help the neighborhood by turning the dilapidated property into a working gymnasium, with meeting rooms available for neighborhood usage. It took nearly 8 years and thousands of personal dollars from Joe Hand, Sr., but finally in 1995 the gym opened in time for Mike Tyson to use the facility to train for his match against Buster Mathis in March of 1996.
The Gym is a non-profit organization that benefits inner city youth with multifaceted programs that are designed to encourage the area children to continue their education while setting and achieving self imposed goals. Since its inception in 1995, the Gym has reached over 600 area youth. These youth groups have participated in many sporting activities earning top honors in many events. One of the Joe Hand Boxing Gym's greatest accomplishments has been acting as host of the Eastern Pennsylvania Golden Glove Tournament for the past five years. With Joe Hand, Sr. at the helm, the Joe Hand Boxing Gym is responsible for bringing this prestigious Event back to its original luster. Since it started hosting the event in 1996, the tournament has grown to record numbers in attendance, registration and championship boxers. The 2000 and 2001 tournament included the presentation of the Pennsylvania State Finals. After a long hiatus Philadelphia was again granted the opportunity to host the State Finals. This is directly related to the job well done by Joe Hand, Sr. and his boxing gym.
In 1992 Joe Hand himself was named to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame for sports promotion excellence. In 1999 he was inducted as “Man of the Year in the King One Veterans Boxer's Association. In 2000, he was inducted into the Golden Gloves Hall of Fame. In October of 2000, Hand was honored by being named to the Advisory Board of National Penn Bank in Bucks County. Most recently, Hand has been inducted into the 2001 Middle Atlantic Amateur Boxing Association's Hall of Fame. In June 2002, Hand was honored with the Philadelphia Sports Congress's Wanamaker Award for Community Service. In 2005, Hand was inducted into Northeast Catholic High School's Alumni Hall of Fame.
His most recent accomplishment was opening a 20-station computer lab in the upper floor of the gym. Since Mr. Hand's involvement with the area youth began in 1995, it became apparent that the children were at a technological disadvantage. Only a modest number of youth had any sort of access to computers and even less had access to computer technology like the Internet. Mr. Hand's goal to transform the upper level of the gym into a computer lab was recently completed and the Grand Opening of the Computer Lab was held in April, 2002. The lab will allow the children to use the computers for their schoolwork and offer assistance with their school projects or homework.
With Hand's continued guidance his business enters the new millennium with dreams of bringing the 3 rd generation into the family owned business. Although the business has expanded to include all sorts of sports programming and special events, its roots are in boxing and it's loyalty will always remain there.