It took twelve fights for Joseph Diaz Jr. to make his dream come true. "JoJo" — that’s what he likes to be called — will be in the main card Monday when he faces Raul Hidalgo in Texas (FOX Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET).
Joseph Pedroza Diaz Jr. was born Nov. 23, 1992. Not yet 22 years old, he is heading on a path to be one of the nation’s biggest boxers. Two years ago, he accomplished one of his greatest achievements: qualifying for the Olympics in London.
His love for boxing is not by heritage, like many other fighters. Intimidation was the motor that made JoJo venture for the world inside the ring. For many years he was the type of kid that was bullied by his so-called friends.
"I told my dad about my situation with them, and how they were picking on me because I was little and making fun of me," Diaz said. "And that’s where he took me to a boxing gym to practice the sport so I could defend myself."
Surprisingly one of the kids that was bullying him was also practicing in the same venue. "He just told me: ‘I dare you to spar,’" Diaz said.
Diaz didn’t have a clue what that word meant — spar — but he took the chance and decided to meet again a week after. When the time came, JoJo couldn’t believe what happened: "I made him cry and bleed." After that, his confidence went to the top, and he discovered the talent he had for boxing.
That story is one of the biggest memories that JoJo keeps, and it was definitely a watershed moment for his future.
"After that day, nobody bullied me again and we became friends," Diaz said.
Speaking Spanish is one of JoJo’s biggest challenges. He is part of a second generation born and raised in the United States, after their grandparents from Chihuahua, Mexico, decided to cross into the country in search of the American dream.
However, Diaz is becoming very popular inside the Hispanic community, and that’s why he has made the decision to learn the language, to be more in touch with his Latino followers.
"Nowadays I’m taking Spanish classes with a tutor," Diaz said. "The Latino blood is part of my life."
Diaz had another love, athletically speaking: baseball. His passion for the hardball since he was seven years old, as strange as it sounds, was helpful to becoming the boxer that he is now.
"Since I was a little boy, I loved baseball," Diaz said. "I was a pitcher, and had the opportunity to be (an) All-Star of the (little) leagues."
Years later, his coach made him an offer to be on the high school varsity team. The only requirement his trainer asked him was to quit boxing, so he could focus just on one sport.
"He gave me 24 hours to make a decision," Diaz said. "The first thing I did was to talk with my father about my future."
The next day, JoJo left the glove behind and started to put on the gloves.
That determination could not have been made without his father, which is also his trainer.
"He is the key to my success, and by my side 24/7, and always there to support me," Diaz said. "Right now, he is watching YouTube videos of my opponent."
JoJo’s strategy is clear for Monday’s fight. The audiovisual library that his father/trainer curated has been very useful, along with the daily workout.
For Diaz, having his name in the main card is a big inspiration. And he wants to return this favor to the fans.
"It’s going to be a very exciting fight," Diaz said. "I will be aggressive and move around the ring. I will give a great show."
Five years from now, Diaz sees himself buying a house for his parents, defending his title and getting into the real estate business. The vision starts Monday.