May 09, 1933 - December 25, 2010
Joseph LaQuatra, a North Side native who became a Golden Gloves champion and who rose to become a powerful labor leader until his 2000 retirement, died Saturday.
He was 77 and lived in Shaler.
A thick-set man who once boxed under famed trainer Angelo Dundee in Florida, Mr. LaQuatra had been business manager of Laborers International Local 1058 since 1985. He had also been head of the Laborer’s District Council of Western Pennsylvania since 1986.
Born May 9, 1933, he grew up tough and followed his father, a boxer who fought under the name Mike Hogan in the 1920s, into the ring. He won the Pittsburgh Golden Gloves championship in 1953 and fought professionally under the direction of Chris and Angelo Dundee, later Muhammad Ali’s trainer, out of their gym in Miami Beach from 1955 to 1961.
His amateur record was 42-8, and his professional record was 18-4, said his son Michael LaQuatra, of Shaler. The proudest moment of his boxing career was fighting at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
In the early 1970s, Mr. LaQuatra opened his own gym above a 10th Street cafe on the South Side and later moved it to Carson Street, where he became a fixture for amateur fighters. In 1978 he moved the gym to the Pecora Building, Downtown, where Local 1058 is based, until he shut it down in 1980. A father of four, he said his family and union duties didn’t leave him enough time for training boxers.
“It was a tough decision” to close, he said at the time. “I put a lot of time into the club and was close to the kids.”
Mr. LaQuatra was admired by many of his young charges and embraced by the Italian community. In 1986, he was inducted into the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, along with wrestler Bruno Sammartino and Steelers great Franco Harris, among others.
As a union leader, Mr. LaQuatra was devoted to his members, whom he described as his extended family, said Philip Ameris, president and business manger of the Labor’s District Council of Western Pennsylvania. He worked under Mr. LaQuatra for about six years.
“If God said pick a boss, that’s who you would pick,” Mr. Ameris said. “He was the best.”
He was one of the leaders behind the creation of a training center for union members in Saxonburg, an accomplishment he was especially proud of, Michael LaQuatra said. At the center, workers learned safety precautions and job skills.
Throughout his career, he was a hard worker who never forgot where he came from, Mr. Ameris said.
“He always fought really hard to protect the jurisdiction of his members, and made sure they had a living wage, and the best health care possible and a good retirement when they retired,” Michael LaQuatra said.
In addition to his son Michael, Mr. LaQuatra is survived by his wife, Christine; daughters Frances LaQuatra of the North Side and Lori LaQuatra of Miami; son Joseph of Shaler; sisters Rose Marie Lovell of the North Side and Nancy McConnell of Shaler; and four grandchildren.
Visitation will be today and Tuesday from 1 to 8 p.m. at T.B. Devlin Funeral Home, 806 Perry Highway, Ross. A Mass will be celebrated in St. Sebastian Church, Ross, at 10 a.m. Wednesday.