By: Sean Crose
“Every other day, we run six to eight miles,” Joet Gonzalez tells me. “The location varies.” There are nineteen year olds who go to college. There are nineteen year olds who hold down forty hour full time jobs. There are nineteen year olds in the military. There are nineteen year olds who are slackers. There are few nineteen year olds, however, quite like the well spoken young Californian on the phone, who currently holds a record of 19-0, with eleven of those nineteen wins coming by knockout. “I start with jumping rope,” he says of his gym routine while in training, “shadow boxing, spar…go over the game plan.”
It’s a routine and a strategy which has served the rising featherweight well. He’s about to highlight his own ESPN card, after all, when he faces the 25-1-2 Rafael Rivera in Las Angeles on the 13th of this month for the vacant NABO featherweight title. “I take Rafael very seriously,” Gonzalez says, pointing out that Rivera fought the very notable Joseph Diaz last September on about “two to three day’s notice.” Rivera may have lost that fight, but Gonzalez knows that this time out, things will be different in the lead up for his determined Mexican opponent. “With me,” he says of Rivera, “he had time to prepare.”
Growing up, Gonzalez probably wasn’t the sort of kid most people figured would become a headline fighter showing off his skills on national television. “I was a little overweight,” he says, “and I was picked on.” Like many fighters who got their starts as bullied kids, Gonzalez’ father introduced him to boxing. Needless to say, the young man soon became hooked. Aside from his own experiences, Gonzlaez was inspired by Oscar De La Hoya, the man who would someday become his promoter. He speaks fondly of watching the thrilling throwdown De La Hoya had with Fernando Vargas back in 2002. “That really pushed me,” he says. It clearly helped push Gonzalez far, for the young fighter now willfully forgoes a life of ease.
“Obviously,” Gonzalez claims in regards to his athlete’s lifestyle. “I’m not out late.” Although he has a girlfriend, the professional boxer won’t be seen running around out and about with people his own age during all hours of the night. His profession, after all requires a large amount of discipline. Even during the Fourth of July, while everyone else was celebrating, Gonzalez was in the gym training for Rivera. “I could smell the barbecue from outside,” he says. To Gonzalez, however, such temptations are all a part of the job. “When I’m in camp,” he states, “I’m really focused.”
Such dedication leads to good things – one of those things being the ability to sign with a top promoter. De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions has not only made good fights available for Gonzalez, the company also offers the kind of exposure that’s hard to come by. “Since I signed with Golden Boy in 2012,” Gonzalez says, they’ve treated me really good.” Gonzalez states the company has gone out of it’s way to make him feel at home. “Just the way they talk to me,” he says, “they treat me like family…not just me, but my (own) family, as well.”
Hard work brings about its own rewards.