ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — New Brunswick native and legendary boxer Jorge “King” Diaz has certainly had his ups and downs over the years, and in some ways, he’s epitomized the rags to riches story.
Diaz was born in New Brunswick and throughout his youth, moved around to Puerto Rico, Franklin Township and North Brunswick, before finally settling down in Somerset some years later.
His upbringing was tough too, and on more than one occasion has found himself in trouble with the law or struggling to make ends meet. But through it all, Diaz said he found a defining passion for himself: boxing.
Now, Diaz is preparing for what he considers one of his biggest challenges yet. On Saturday, the Hub City native will be competing in Atlantic City at the Claridge Hotel for a spot the World Boxing Council’s Top 15 title.
He’ll face off against professional boxer Adam Lopez, who currently has 12 wins, one loss and two draws. Winner walks away with the WBC Featherbox Title.
“At this level, everybody's tough,” Diaz said. “You’re a professional boxer, you have experience, he has a winner record.”
From the beginning
Diaz procured an interest in boxing while growing up in Puerto Rico. But it wasn’t really until the early 2000’s that his interest really took off.
On a particular Saturday morning in the summer of 2001, Diazand his father, while delivering newspapers, stopped at the now-closed Bagel Bazaar in North Brunswick.
“I was telling him how bad I wanted to box, and this older Spanish gentleman started talking to my dad,” Diaz said. “He said ‘you want to box?’ I said ‘yeah,” and he said there’s a boxing gym on Route 27 behind 7-Eleven called Dynamic Dual."
He rode his bike over to the gym and met Steve Rivera, who was just a trainer at the time, and referred Diaz to the now-closed South River Knights of Columbus Boxing Gym.
“There, we started training, and he was my trainer my whole amateur career,” Diaz said, referring to Rivera.
As a high school student, Diaz started with competitive boxing. That transitioned to professional boxing when he won the state championship, advanced to the high school regionals, and then competed at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center.
There, he won the regionals and went onto the National Championship, where he placed second in the Featherweight Division.
“I won the Nationals. As an amateur, I was 92 wins and 12 losses,” Diaz said. “2007, that was my last year as an amateur.”
Diaz turned pro when he signed the paperwork with his manager, Pat Lynch.
No pain, no gain
Diaz’s training is pretty tough; he also has to balance out being a father, owner of two businesses and the sole breadwinner in his family.
At 5 a.m. he wakes up and by 6 a.m. he’s at the gym, where it’s an hour and a half training. Then he has to get his son to school by 8:30 a.m., and off to work by 9 a.m. Diaz gets out at 3 p.m., picks up his son at 4 p.m., takes a nap and goes back to the gym.
TAPinto New Brunswick shadowed Diaz at his boxing training during the weeknights, and his weight-training over the weekend.
The boxing gym he goes to is on the third floor of a now-converted warehouse at 121 Jersey Avenue.
On a particular night, he might be shadow boxing and sparring at a practice ring for the entire workout. A first bell rings and Diaz has to shadow box continuously for several minutes until the second bell rings.
He has a break that’s less than a minute, and then the first bell rings again, where it’s continual shadow boxing until the second bill rings, and it’s his seconds-long break, and then the bill rings and it's shadow boxing again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
On this particular weight day, his routine follows squats, clean and jerk, deadlifts, bench press, core with weights and lunges. But the goal is to maintain weight and muscle, not to be bulked up and massive.
“You can do all the training you want and run up all the mountains and fight all the alligators and lions you want,” Diaz said. “If you don’t know how to box and what boxing’s all about, all you’re doing is getting in better shape to take a longer ass-whooping.”
For his eating, Diaz has been working with Dr. Shawn Arent from the Center for Health and Human Performance at Rutgers. Diaz’s diet is carefully crafted; every calorie, macro and micronutrient is accounted for.
“I work out on an empty stomach, I drink some water and I work out, I do some conditioning work and I have my post-workout shake,” Diaz said.
“It’s a science, everything’s a science.”
Life can get in the way sometimes, Diaz said.
During a particular match, Diaz was balancing out preparation and being at the fight with the birth of his son.
He was at the hospital to be with his wife while in labor, the night before and the day of a big fight with pro boxer Louis Rosa.
“I was there 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Diaz said. “My coach was like ‘where are you’ and I was like ‘my lady is giving birth,’ and I was there not resting. It wasn’t good before a fight; you’re supposed to be in the hotel eating every three hours, staying hydrated.”
Diazsaid he left the hospital at 5 p.m. to make it to the fight; his son was born 47 minutes later.
“And of course I lost that fight.”
On top of that, Diaz said he failed the physical after the fight and was sent to the hospital as a result, where he received a CT Scan to make sure he hadn’t sustained any significant brain damage.
To add insult to injury, his grandma had passed away a year earlier.
Still, things started to look up, eventually. Diaz started to transition into becoming a father, putting himself in second place, and his wife, son and job in first place.
“When I had my son, I put myself second, and I put boxing second for the first time in my life,” Diaz said. “I had to step up to the plate and provide for my family.”
“Every morning I would go to my girl’s house, be with my son for like 30 minutes before I had to go to work,” Diaz said. “And then on my lunch break, I would go to be with my son, and then after work, I would take a nap to go to the boxing gym and then by at my mom’s house.”
Ultimately, Diaz says he’s committed to this weekend’s fight.
“ I make more than six figures, I’m well off, I have two businesses, I have a beautiful family and I’m about to be ranked top of the world!”