Theodore Roosevelt is known for saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” In boxing terms, 2012 Olympian, Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz speaks softly and carries a mean punch.
Diaz is coming off of a third-round stoppage of Juan Luis Hernandez, who was down in the second before being dropped three times in the third of their intended 10-round fight, as result of Diaz’s vicious assault to the body.
Speaking softly wasn’t always the greatest quality for Diaz, as he explained how he found boxing as a kid.
“I was such a small guy and I was always nice and polite to everybody. A lot of kids back in my school, they used to pick on me and bully me around. It got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I finally told my dad what was going on.”
So he informed his father–who at the time didn’t know much about boxing–about what was going on at school. Diaz Sr. decided to take Jo Jo to a local gym so he could learn how to protect himself. What was waiting for Diaz at the local gym would have probably made most people turn around and walk right out. Not Jo Jo, though.
“There was one bully there that used to pick on me in school. He was a boxer as well; so when I got to the gym, the bully was like, “Oh! So you think you’re tough? You think you’re bad now? You wanna fight? Well let’s go spar.”
Joseph didn’t even know what sparring meant at the time, so he asked his tormentor to give him one week to learn some techniques and then he would oblige. The bully agreed. Jo Jo used his week wisely, learning punches and how to correctly throw them to the head and body. He was prepared, but anxious when the moment came to meet his bully in the ring. The anxiety didn’t last long.
“He was looking all strong and intimidating. I was very scared and didn’t know what to do. The bell rung and we started fighting and I started throwing shots. I found that I was hurting him and eventually, I ended up making him bleed. I made him cry and the coach stopped the sparring session. From that day forward, I knew that boxing was the love of my life, because I knew that I could defend myself.”
Since going pro after the 2012 Olympics, the soft-spoken Diaz has been blowing through his opponents similarly, amassing a 15-0 record, winning 10 of those fights by KO. Those opponents may not have cried (in public), but they definitely bled.
Diaz is great at working the body, which has helped him to maintain momentum as he tumbles over many of his opponents on his way to stardom and makes his fights exciting to the fans. I wondered if it was something that he added to his arsenal or if it came naturally to him.
“Ever since I was little boy and started sparring, my father used to tell me, ‘Joseph, you gotta throw a lot of body shots.'” Body shots help you break down your opponent. So I always used to throw a lot of body shots, because I knew that it would break down my opponent. After that I can overwhelm my opponent with shots on top.”
Now Jo Jo is preparing for Giovanni Delgado (15-2, 9 KOs), a Mexican puncher also coming off a knockout victory, who should be a suitable test for the California-based prospect. Diaz is wrapping up his six-week camp, and reports that things have been going pretty well for him as he readies himself for his 10-round fight on the Canelo-Kirkland undercard. He feels stronger and has been working on his body shots, specifically to increase their effectiveness in fights.
“We’re just focusing on developing, turning over my shots more and focusing on counter shots. Because this guy (Delgado) has a deadly right hand, and he likes to counter shot a lot. So we’ve been focusing on avoiding that right hand and countering over it and landing a lot of body shots. I had a really good training camp. My nutrition is good, I ate very well, my conditioning is good and I’m ready to go May 9.”
Diaz is inspired by the work ethic of his favorite fighter, Floyd Mayweather, who Jo Jo says still works very hard despite all the successes he’s had, and who has left a blueprint for the young prospect to follow.
With hard work and dedication, he’s been sharpening his skills for May 9. Working on turning over his punches–boxing slang for tightening his punching technique, mainly ensuring that his wrist and the roofs of his hand are in the position they’re supposed to be at the end of the punch–sets the stage for more stoppages from Diaz. Hopefully we’ll see another one come Saturday night.
Jo Jo also had a message for his fans, “Thank you for all your support. I really appreciate you guys following my career and I promise you May 9 I’m going to put on an exciting show for all my fans. I know this guy Giovanni Delgado has a good record. He’s powerful as well, but I’m ready for him and come Saturday night I’m going to give you guys a great show.”
Don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to it.
You can follow Joseph “JoJo” Diaz on Instagram: @JosephDiazJr
Facebook: Joseph Diaz Jr.
All photos by Ismael Gallardo/RBRBoxing