Helping U.S. boxers go for the gold

After receiving an invite to spar with local talent, the Mexican National Boxing Team visited the Alliance Training Center in Chula Vista on August 10, 2011. Among those invited was Oscar Valdes (C) who got to spar with the top lightweight at the time, Elias Diaz (R). To Vades' left is Gregorio Diaz, Elias' dad and trainer. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Boxing trainer Freddie Roach began his work for the U. S. boxing program back in May of last year as a consultant for the downtrodden U.S. boxing program. Roach, a 1976 Olympic alternate, has emerged from a lengthy pro boxing career to become the brilliant strategist who’s responsible for directing the training of superstar boxers


like Manny PacquiaoAmir Khan and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. He also runs his own popular Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood. Can you imagine if the USA Boxing Team had the benefit of his expertise 24/7?

Ex-boxer and well respected trainer Freddie Roach

During this same period, HBO had Roach participate in a TV mini-series about his life which premiers on Friday night. As you’d expect, he’s been quite involved in the promotion of this project.

Why would such a busy and high profile gent like Roach volunteer his services to help the USA Boxing team? Roach realizes the problems facing these young athletes who are hoping to represent our country at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. The task is immense, given the U.S. heads to this year’s event having claimed only three Olympic golds since 1992 (Oscar De La Hoya, David Reid, Andre Ward).

In California, we have several extremely talented boxers who are now spending six days a week training for an opportunity to represent the U. S. One in particular, 17 year-old Elias Diaz of Chula Vista, CA, a veteran of over 100 matches believes he has the talent to follow in their footsteps. He comes from a long line of boxers. His dad boxed, his uncles boxed, his aunt was ranked #4 nationally and his older brother, Emmanuel, is also a celebrated boxer.

When asking the young man about which of the boxers he would most like to emulate? Without hesitation he said, “Oscar De La Hoya.” What makes him believe he has the talent to fulfill such a dream?

Elias Diaz shows off three of the four belts he has earned in competition. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Well, for one thing, he has a room full of championship belts, medals, trophies and ribbons that he’s won. The one thing he doesn’t have, either because he’s too shy to ask or too proud to solicit help, is a legitimate sponsor. Not only does a boxer have to worry about being good enough to defeat all comers, they have to worry about securing the funds for the necessities of food, travel and lodging.

Why would a benefactor want to get involved in Diaz’s career? Diaz, a senior at East Lake High School, is special. Like his brother, Emmanuel, who’s now in college, Elias is an advanced student who comes from an exemplary family. His love of the sport has never wavered even though he began at the age of six and started competing at the age of eight. Even though he’s played other sports, e.g. baseball and soccer, he’s always remained committed to his one true love, boxing.

Watching him compete or even workout can be as mesmerizing as watching the great ones, like Pacquiao. He loves every aspect of the sport from the early morning canyon runs to the more involved endurance training. What’s really intimidating is watching him spar or do pad work with his dad. To reach his apex, his dad and brother have taken Elias to many gyms throughout southern California to spar with a long list of champions and future champions.
A sampling of his invincibility: Elias Diaz takes on Eric Vargas at Boxers for Christ National Tournament

The fact his dad, Gregorio Diaz, who works at the R. J. Donovan Correctional Facility, has been his coach, is a major blessing. Like his son, he’s been around the sport from an early age, he’s always had an open mind as far as trying new things, so much so that he’s become an accomplished trainer, strength and conditioning coach plus nutritionist. He’s also adopted the tried and true methods of the great boxing trainers like Cus D’Mato. For instance, in practice they use the number system to get Elias to throw the different combinations. It appears his dad has every base covered.

Elias' brother, Emmanuel Diaz (R), with some of the quickest hands in boxing, poses for a photo with another heavy hitter John Juarez. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Prior to being selected for the USA Boxing Team, Elias Diaz, who has won a junior Olympic competition, two California Pal State Championships and is the current owner of four championship belts, must compete in the 2012 USA Boxing National Championships February 27-March 3 at the Fort Carson Special Events Center near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Preliminary competition is scheduled to begin February 27, but if there are more than 64 boxers in his weight division, that weight class will open action on February 26.

The annual tournament is a critical piece of the qualifying process for the 2012 Olympic Games. The champions in the light flyweight, lightweight, light welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions will all earn the right to represent the United States in the final international Olympic qualifier in Brazil in May.

While the three women vying for berths in London will be set at the first-ever U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Women, February 13-19, the 2012 USA Boxing National Champions in the seven non-Olympic weight classes will all earn berths in the 2012 Women’s World Championships in May in China.

Preliminary competition is scheduled to begin on February 27, but if there are more than 64 boxers in a weight division, that weight class will open action on February 26.

If you know of an organization or company interested in sponsoring Elias, you can contact the family by calling (760) 562-9409.

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