JOSEPH DIAZ JR.

Boxing

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Photograph by Patrik Giardino

19, 5 feet 5, South El Monte

Trains at: South El Monte Teamsters Youth Boxing Club. The road taken: Diaz thought he had qualified by winning the U.S. Trials. Then he was told that he had to finish in the top ten in his weight class at the world championships. The bantamweight traveled to Azerbaijan and fought his way through a tough bracket that included two Olympic silver medalists to place fifth. Psych factor: “I think about helping my parents,” he says, noting that his father recently lost his job. “I know that if I win the fight, it’s another step closer to being successful and helping them out.” Superstition: “Right before I enter the ring I call my mom, and she prays for me.” What you should know: The United States hasn’t won a gold medal in boxing since 2004, so Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach was enlisted to help the team. Roach “knows different skills and all the little slick moves,” says Diaz. Life after London: “I’m going to take a week off and spend time with my family and friends. Then I’ll get back to the gym and turn pro. Maybe I’ll become a world champion.”

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