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In The Arena Blog

Smokin’ Joe Perez’s Story of Overcoming Adversity in Boxing and Life

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Arena Pro Boxer Smokin Joe Perez discusses his history in boxing and with Coach Basheer Abdullah @elite__trainer. Joe fought and won his 22nd pro fight in Davenport, IA on February 6th. Congratulations to him and good luck to the future!


Joe Perez:
Growing up, my father was a big fan of boxing. He took me to the gym when I was eight years old. I walked into the gym, the trainer there told me I was too small. I should go play a different sport. He kind of just blew me off. So that summer, I went and played baseball. After that baseball season ended, I was hanging out with one of my neighborhood friends and his brother-in-law, Steve VanDeWalle, and he said, “Hey, do you want to box?” And I said, “Yeah.” And so he took me to the same gym that my dad had taken me the year before. I told him, “I don’t know, the trainer inside, he told me that I’ll never be anything. I’m too small, too weak, too skinny.” He told me, “You know what? Don’t ever listen to anybody tell you you can’t do anything. I’ll be your trainer. Let me decide that.”

My fourth year training with Steve, I won my first national amateur title. Just kept pushing and pushing, and I won three national junior amateur titles. It was a big accomplishment for me. It was a way to show back to the old trainer who once told me I’ll never be anything. By the time I Was 17, 18, I was getting in some trouble. Steve saw that I’m headed down the wrong path, made a call to Basheer Abdullah, who was his former trainer. He said, “Hey, I got this kid. I’d like for you to take a look at him and see if you can get him in.”

He sent me out there for about two weeks just for trial and I enjoyed it. Basheer liked me, but I was involved with a girlfriend. I didn’t want to move, kept getting in trouble. It got to the point where I really didn’t have a choice. Steve made the call again to Basheer and said, “Hey, I need to get this kid out of here.” A week later, I was on the Greyhound bus headed to Colorado, and I was there for about four years. We were getting ready for the 2012 Olympics and I made it to the Olympic trials.

In 2013, Basheer and I decided to move to San Diego, California, and pick up our boxing career here. My biggest motivation now is my family. I got three daughters. I continue to just keep trying to show them a good example of hard work, being disciplined, being dedicated to something, and believe in yourself 100%. Have some heart and you’ll get there.

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