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Joel Diaz, Jr. and Tyler Asselstine Finally Meet

By Gabriel Montoya

Up at boxing trainer Abel Sanchez’ Summit Gym in Big Bear, CA, there has resided a young punching machine largely hidden away from the world. Palmdale, CA’ Joel Diaz, Jr returns to the scene of his first big splash in boxing, Showtime’s prospect series Shobox: The New Generation. Diaz faces Tyler Asselstine, a 14-1 southpaw who was undefeated last year when Diaz was supposed to face him. A cruel twist of fate and a patch of icy road undid those April 2013 plans when Diaz injured his writs after he slipped while running in Big Bear just two weeks from the fight.

Diaz was 6-0 when he faced off with Guy Robb, a then 7-0 prospect. It was rare for two undefeated fighters to be pitted together so early in their careers. They two young men fought like it, each showing their mettle. Diaz was put on the canvas in the second but he rallied and floored Robb twice in the following stanza. Diaz can punch from either side and he used that strength to take control. A natural fighter who enjoys taking to the eye of the storm, Diaz also possesses boxing ability. Combined, the two conspired to hurt Robb in the seventh enough that the ref pulled the plug. A triumphant Diaz, all humble smiles with words of praise for his opponent, won the fight and the crowd.


In his next fight, Diaz moved his training operation to Big Bear, CA to work with veteran boxing coach Abel Sanchez. Tonight will their ninth fight together. AS the boxing world has been set afire by the power punching efforts of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, another of Sanchez’ pupils, Diaz has quietly toiled in the shadows, training non-stop at the gym, and waiting his turn. Diaz was an early of the promotional outfit Boxing 360, which recently had it’s promotional license pulled in New York. Recently signed with Lou Dibella Entertainment, Diaz, who is managed by Mike Criscio, appears settled, focused and ready to work.


It feels really really good, actually, to be working with Lou DiBella as my new promoter. It just feels good, you know? Instead of hanging in the closet waiting for someone to pick you up to wear you, you know?” Diaz told


Diaz trains year round at The Summit, waiting for a chance to make his move at 130 pounds. At 15-0 with 12 knockouts, that time appears now. Should he be successful against Asselstine, Diaz is already being talked about for another date on the network. All of this will make Diaz’ most difficult sacrifice worth it.


This is my home,” Diaz laughed. "What do people say? A gym rat? I stay up here throughout the whole year. After a fight, I go see my son. That’s the only thing that I’ve got to go see. That and my family, of course. After a fight, I take over a little break, like a week. And then I go right back up here. I’m up here throughout the whole year.”


Diaz is a dedicated warrior. He also a dedicated father. He’s doing this for his boy; literally fighting for his family’s future. Sacrificing his present so that his son might have something more in this life. It is the ultimate sacrifice. Every chance he gets, Diaz drives down the mountain to see his son.


"Actually it’s really really tough on me, “ said Diaz. “Now when I go see him, he doesn’t really want me to go back [to Big Bear]. He wants me to stay there with him. And it’s, it’s getting harder and harder. I just tell him ’I gotta work, you know? I gotta put some food on the table and a roof over your head, you know?’ He’s still OK but he understands, he understands where I am at. Every time I talk to him he’s like ’Oh, daddy what are you doing? Are you working? Training?’ And of course he is Coach Abel’s number one fan. Every time I go down, I tell him ’I’m going to bring you up here when you get bigger.’ He goes ’Ohhh to see Coach Abel?’ I want to see Coach Abel. I want him to train him. That’s his number one fan right there."

Diaz and Sanchez appear to have excellent chemistry. Sanchez has a natural way about him that is comforting and honest. Diaz is very much an open book, amiable and easygoing. If a fighter’s style is indicative of his nature, a trainer’s preferred pupil says everything about his taste. Sanchez loves him an aggressive boxer-fighter who can crack. Diaz happens to be one of those, raw when he first arrived but much more mature and polished since.


Actually he taught me a lot of things. To fight more. To use my power more. I actually feel different as a fighter. He’s very technical. I’m very technical, as well. On Shobox, you guys will see how different I am, how technical I am since the last time you saw me on Shobox. Coach Abel, like I said, is very technical. He wants me to use my boxing skills more and, of course, my power. That’s where everything comes in.”


And so it all comes full circle. Last year, Diaz was uncertain about his future; watching others leave the mountain training camp and ascend towards boxing glory peaks. Last April, that step was supposed to be against then unbeaten Tyler Asselstine. But Diaz slipped, injured his wrist and late replacement Baha Laham, who ended up upsetting Asseslstine and winning by majority decision. Watching on TV was not easy for Diaz. But then again, what ever is for him?


Oh man, are you kiddding me? My team and I were up here watching it going ’That could’ve been me up there.’ I could of had that win that victory.’ But things happen for a reason. And here we are again with the same opponent. Last year, it was supposed to be on ESPN. This year it’s going to be on Showtime so that’s a big plus. So it worked out.


Success isn’t about always getting it right and things going super smooth the whole way through. Success is about how you deal with and learn from adversity. On Shobox, Diaz gets to showcase how well he handles it.

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