17-time National Champ Joel Iriarte to Join Professional Ranks

06/19/2023 - No comments

Joel Iriarte is ready to join the professional ranks. After racking up 17 national championships, and traveling the world as a four year member of the USA Boxing national team, the 20 year old super lightweight from Bakersfield, California sets his sights on an active first year as a professional.

Iriarte walked into Refuse to Lose Boxing Gym for the first time at only five years old, after having pestered his parents, who thought their young son was just going through a phase, to get into the gym and box.

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“I remember walking into the gym, and seeing all the sweat and blood, and everyone was spitting,” said Iriarte of the memory. “Coach Joe Cardenas ran the gym, and he didn’t want to train anyone under the age of eight, but he made an exception because he was friends with my dad.”

The young fighter quickly set himself apart from his counterparts at the gym, developing a passion for the sport, built through determination, discipline and consistency. Even at such a young age, Iriarte knew he wanted to compete with the best.

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At 11 years old, Iriarte suffered the loss of his boxing coach. Cardenas had died of a heart attack. Joel’s father Temo took over the mantle, seeing his son through the grief of losing a man who was like a second father, and continuing to build on the foundation that trainer and trainee had built.

With his father in his corner, Iriarte would go on to have over 300 amateur fights, picking up gold medals in the Hungary Junior International Tournament, and the Pan American Games in Guadalajara. He would win 17 national titles, including at the Junior Golden Gloves, USA Boxing Nationals, National Qualifiers, National PAL, and Ringside tournaments. He would hold off on going professional to wait for the Olympics, but ultimately decided to leave behind the politics and controversies of the amateurs to try his hand at the pros.

“It’s time to start scaling the pro ranks,” said Iriarte. “I’m glad we waited. I feel like with the additional experience, I’m smarter, stronger, I’ve developed bone density, and my man strength is kicking in.”

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In 2023, Iriarte began working Carlos Campos, who manages Diego Pacheco and others.

“With Joel I see that special prodigy, that special talent that comes once in a lifetime, a generational talent,” said Campos. “He works hard in and out of boxing, and is a smart young man with great grades. I feel like he’s special and he’s going to change the game. I’m happy to be part of it and to help him change the game.”

Outside the ring, Iriarte works in the gym, teaching and mentoring children with disabilities. “I really like to inspire kids,” Iriarte said of the job he loves. “I train for the League of Dreams, helping with little kids with down syndrome. I get them moving, throwing ones and twos. I have so much experience and an open heart. I really love helping others and being a good role model.”

It’s early for the young fighter and role model, but with his undeniable charisma, his dedication to the sport of boxing, and his exceptional talent, changing the game is only a matter of time for Joel Iriarte.