Yankello joins Pa. Boxing Hall of Fame
CRANBERRY TWP — Four shoulder and elbow surgeries in a span of four years short-circuited then 16-year-old Tom Yankello’s aspirations of becoming a professional boxer.
So he did the next best thing.
He trained others to succeed in the sport he cherished. After doing so for 32 years — and being in the corner of a fighter for more than 200 world and regional title bouts —the Cranberry Township resident was inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame last month in Philadelphia.
“Boxing’s been my first love since I was a little kid,” Yankello said. “My dad was a boxer in the military. My uncle was a Naval boxing champion. My grandfather was an amateur boxer. It was all around me. It’s all I wanted to do.”
Yankello became a talented amateur boxer. When the injuries derailed his career, he began studying boxing videos given to him by a family member who ran a TV video store.
Between viewing those tapes, attending and watching numerous boxing events, “I became a student of the game,” Yankello said. “I believed in and was fascinated by the sweet science.”
Now 51, Yankello began managing and training amateur and professional fighters in 1991. He started out working at the Beaver County Boxing Club and later opened Tom Yankello’s World Class Boxing Gym in Ambridge. He was listed as one of the top trainers in the world by Ring Magazine in 2008.
Yankello is the first boxing trainer from Western Pa. to gain induction into the Pa. Boxing Hall of Fame. Also included in the induction class were former world champions Bernard Hopkins, Michael Moorer, Michael Spinks and Freddie Pendleton.
“Tom deserves this,” retired boxer Brian Minto of Butler said. “Boxing is his whole life. I know I wouldn’t have had the career I did if I didn’t work with him.
“We had our disagreements, but Tom knows the game and knows how to work with and improve fighters.”
Minto fought all over the world as a professional heavyweight and once fought for a world cruiserweight title.
This is the 64th year of the Pa. Boxing Hall of Fame, the longest running boxing HOF in the world.
“I’m proud to be the first trainer from this side of the state to go in,” Yankello said. “You have to be nominated and there’s a committee of 50 promoters, trainers and writers who review the candidates. Very few of those committee members are from Western Pennsylvania.
“I’ll never retire. I’ve developed a social media presence, have a YouTube channel, have put together workout videos ... Fighters are coming to me from other countries and different states. We’re building a stable here.”
Yankello said he’s currently working with 17 boxers and has another 40 to 50 kids in the gym. He trained Paul Spadafora — the first major world champion to come out of Pittsburgh since Billy Conn in 1941 — and has worked with Roy Jones Jr.
Other notable fighters he’s worked with include Minto, U.S. Olympian Calvin Brock, Monty Meza-Clay and Verquan Kimbrough.
He began his “Day Off The Streets, Inc.” program in 1996. That non-profit program helps rescue forgotten kids from the dangers of the streets, troubled homes and negative role models.
“What we do isn’t always about boxing,” Yankello said. “We want to teach the sport to kids, sure, but it’s more about teaching them about discipline and work ethic, nutrition and eating the right foods. We want to produce good people, not just good boxers.”
Minto described Yankello as being “passionate about what he does” and being great at “teaching a boxer what he should do and what he shouldn’t do.
“I want to see him get a world champion,” Minto added. “He deserves that as much as anybody.”