Diaz wants to give parents golden future

Olympic Games boxer Joseph Diaz Junior believes a gold medal in London will pave the way to a bright future as a professional and help drag his parents out of poverty. 

The lively 19-year-old, two-time American champion, may be the youngest member of the US team but he shows maturity beyond his years when he acknowledges the debt he owes his mother and father.

"My family means a lot to me and to see them in the crowd here is an overwhelming experience," he said, after his impressive opening bantamweight round win which set up a bout with Cuban top seed Lazaro Alvarez.

"There they are cheering me on and it is they who should be taking the applause because without them I wouldn't have had this opportunity."

His father and coach Joseph Senior, who has been jobless for three years and no longer receives unemployment benefit, was equally emotional after watching the bout.

He had raised the money to come here with his wife through selling T-shirts and washing cars.

"Knowing that's your son, your blood in there," a teary-eyed Joseph Diaz told the Los Angeles Times.

"It's just something, man," added Diaz, who taught himself the art of becoming a coach through watching YouTube videos and talking to qualified trainers.

Diaz, who was the first American to qualify for the Olympics when he reached the world championship quarter-finals last year, is so driven that he eschewed going to the opening ceremony on the eve of his bout.

"I am not here for the opening ceremony, I'm here for the gold medal," said the teenager, who showed his class at the world championships by beating the 2004 Olympic silver medalist Worapoj Petchkoom and a former world bronze medallist Oscar Valdez.

Diaz, known as Jo-Jo, says he wishes to emulate what the great Oscar de la Hoya - lightweight gold medalist in 1992 - did for his family thanks to his success inside the ring.

"I'm fighting not just for my country, but for my family - to be the next Golden Boy and do for my family what Oscar De La Hoya did for his," said Diaz, who has been linked with De La Hoya's highly successful Golden Boy stable.

"I'm fighting not for glory, but to get my mom and dad a new house and a new start in life."

Diaz's qualifying for the Games, and now his first round victory, have been rare rays of sunlight in the family household over the past three years as both his parents have been made redundant.

They have also been under threat of eviction from their home.

Joseph Senior hasn't found work since being laid off from the truck company he worked for three years ago while mum Valerie also lost her permanent job as a secretary, though she does get part-time work from time to time.

Joseph Senior, though, is grateful his son's talent and dreams have kept the flame of hope alive in the household - down to in no small measure to his succeeding in getting Jo-Jo to switch from being naturally left-handed to a right-hander in the ring.

Ironically Diaz senior never really had it in mind for his son to box for a career.

He viewed baseball as his future but he saw the gym as being a safe haven in their Los Angeles area.

"I told him, 'Joseph, you want to go to the gym? You're hanging around the wrong people,'" Diaz told the Los Angeles Times.

"I didn't want him to choose it as a profession. Just something to keep him off the streets."
 

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