It’s hard not to admire Puerto Rico’s rich history and countless boxing accolades. It’s a hotbed for boxing greatness. It’s the only country to have a champion in every division and it’s ranked third in the world for nations with the most world championships. Like I said, it’s a hotbed.
Jorge “King” Diaz, a featherweight Puerto Rican orthodox fighter, stands 5’6″ and has hands like lightning.
Jorge’s love of boxing started well before he even considered this sport as a profession. “My mom says that the reason why I box is because when she was pregnant with me, my dad wouldn’t stop watching Rocky.”
“I remember being in 6th grade and lying to the other kids in school that I boxed. I never boxed. I didn’t know any boxers. In fact, I didn’t even know where there was a boxing gym.”
Jorge yearned to be a boxer so much that he actually lied. “I remember being in science class and a student named Frankie asked me if I boxed. You know what I said? I told him, ‘yeah, I box. Of course, I box.’ I don’t know why I said that.” Jorge laughed.
The tales permeated from side comments into full-blown actions. At the age of 11, Jorge habitually wore a gray hooded sweatshirt and went for long runs through his neighborhood. He’d use this time to give various bystanders his best boxing impression as he threw jabs and punches into the defenseless air leaving his imaginary foe paralyzed and KO’d.
Shortly after that, in 2000, Jorge became close with his younger cousin – HBO boxer Jonathan Gonzalez. This was Jorge’s first introduction to organized boxing. “We went to one of his amateur fights and watched him compete. It was everything I imagined.”
Jorge started to spend more time with Jonathan, and the boxing community. He began training at Jonathan’s gym, which was what he had always wanted. But just as he was beginning to get comfortable, Jorge packed his belongings and moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey to live with his father, putting him back to square one.
The Mysterious Man at the Bagel Shop
After finishing his newspaper route during the summer of 2001, Jorge and his father stopped off at a bagel store called ‘Bagel Bizarre.’
“I kept telling my dad how much I wanted to box again and how I needed to find a boxing gym. Then in the middle of our breakfast, my prayers were finally answered.” In an abrupt manner, an older man walked over to Jorge and vehemently asked, as if he had earplugs in, “You want to box?” Jorge looked at his dad then back at the old man, “Yeah, I want to box.” “Well, there is a gym on route 27 behind the 7-Eleven. Those rings should serve you well.” Then, just as unexpectedly as the man appeared, he turned around and walked out of the shop.
“Fight after fight, year after year, I kept training, and I kept winning.”
The next day Jorge rode his bike to the gym and spoke to Steve Rivera – the gym’s boxing czar. Steve and Jorge naturally gravitated toward each other. They were a perfect match. A young athlete eager to grow and fine-tune his skills, and an established mentor looking for a hopeful athlete to mold and shape. “He fell in love with me and I with him,” Jorge said. “Over the years he gave me a lot, so I didn’t want to disappoint him.”
In his high school years, Jorge started to fight competitively for the first time. “We started fighting and we started winning. Fight after fight, year after year, I kept training, and I kept winning.” Then just like any relationship, Steve and Jorge began bumping heads when the stakes got bigger.
When Jorge won the state championship and advanced to the high school regionals, Steve didn’t want him competing because he didn’t think Jorge was ready. “I told myself that if I won State I was going to the Regionals, whether anybody liked it or not,” Jorge said. So against Steve’s wishes, Jorge went up to Lake Placid to the Regionals and steamrolled the competition, advancing to the Nationals. At the National Championship, Jorge placed second in the featherweight division.
This success left Jorge feeling that he didn’t need a coach at the moment, so he and Steve parted ways.
Olympic Gold Medalist Meets the Floor
At the outset of his professional career, Jorge found himself in his biggest fight to date. In Madison Square Garden, in front of 10,000 people at an opening fight to an HBO bout, Jorge matched up against an Olympic gold medalist.
It was a dogfight. Round by round they were swapping vicious body-crushing punches. “People undoubtedly got their money’s worth,” Jorge said.
“In the last round with maybe a minute left, I got my moment. I remember being exhausted with my hands down covering my body, trying not to take any more gut-wrenching shots. I bent over, leaned forward, and came back up with a five-piece combination that fired-up my career. It was a right, left, right to the body, and then a hook up top, followed by a right hand. The hook up top knocked him out cold. He fell face first and didn’t move for some time. That was the best knockout I had for sure.” This was the moment Jorge and his team yearned for.
When Boxing Got Real
Throughout Jorge’s career, he consistently had a man named Dwayne call him and give him constructive criticism about his fighting technique. Dwayne was a successful businessman who Jorge knew from childhood, and he also just so happened to have superior boxing knowledge that Jorge revered. As much as Jorge tried to get Dwayne to train him, it just never seemed to work out for the two of them. If it did, it would be the perfect match of brains and talent.
So Jorge continued with his career and continued to rely on the four pillars of boxing that got him to where he is today: tenacity, fortitude, commitment, and dedication. The only elusive roadblock Jorge faced is that he never learned the nuances of boxing. He never learned the strategies for manipulating opponents, the patience of control, the elegance of rhythm, distance, and timing. All of this was absent from his boxing skillset. However, things were about to change…
“I’m an aggressive, defensive fighter. All the great boxers hold this same philosophy. Defense disguises offense in boxing and the very best are masters.”
One day, after 9 years, Dwayne walked into Jorge’s gym without any announcement and asked to be his coach. It was an unceremonious agreement at best. Very few words were exchanged, but Jorge and Dwayne knew this was the right call. It was the missing centerpiece that Jorge’s camp was looking for.
“Now that I’m working with Dwayne, my philosophy has drastically changed. I’m an aggressive, defensive fighter. All the great boxers hold this same philosophy. Defense disguises offense in boxing and the very best are masters. After working with Dwayne, it’s been breakthrough after breakthrough. For the first time in my life, I’ve been learning how to fight.”
Jorge Finds the Missing Tool
“If you’re not assessing, you’re guessing,” Jorge said to me. “What do you mean?” I asked. “If you’re not assessing how your training is affecting your recovery and how your recovery is affecting your training, then you’re guessing how well you’re going to perform.”
“We finally have a tool that works. WHOOP gives me the predictive analytics that I trust.”
Dwayne and Jorge assess everything: his workload, his power, and his speed. However, the only thing that we haven’t been able to assess is Recovery. “Nobody measures Recovery. It’s been something we’ve needed for a long time. Then along came WHOOP – the one thing we’ve been looking for,” Jorge said.
“Typically in the past, if I wanted 8 hours of sleep I would go to bed at 12 and wake up at 8. After wearing WHOOP I now understand my sleeping patterns and how well I’m sleeping throughout the night. In the morning I know how many disturbances I have, what affected my sleep quality, and what my sleep latency was. This helps me understand how my Recovery will affect my performance. We finally have a tool that works. WHOOP gives me the predictive analytics that I trust.”
Getting the Edge as an Athlete
Jorge has the boxing grit, the right team behind him, and now the right tool to assess his Recovery. “Now I don’t have to guess or assume anything. With WHOOP, I now can measure my Recovery and how it relates to my performance. Prior, I was assuming that I slept well or that I didn’t get enough rest. I really didn’t know why on certain days I was saying ‘Man I’m out of it today.’ With WHOOP, I now have no excuse. My performance is in my control.”
“My sleep performance was 100% and my recovery was 98%. That day I told myself, ‘there are no excuses.’”
“I remember once having an awful sparring session in Brooklyn. I was out of it. I told my coach, ‘Listen, I had a 56% recovery today. I went to bed late and I was watching HBO fights, so I didn’t get much sleep.’ I justified my readiness to perform.” Jorge said.
“Two weeks later we sparred again and I made sure to listen to my WHOOP Sleep Coach. In the morning my Sleep Performance was 100% and my Recovery was 98%. That morning I told myself, ‘there are no excuses.’ When I sparred it was amazing. My coach noticed a huge difference and asked, ‘what was your Recovery last night?’” Jorge laughed and said, “You see? Now my entire team sees the positive difference WHOOP makes. They’re bought in.”
In addition to WHOOP, Jorge has been working with Dr. Shawn Arent from the Center for Health and Human Performance at Rutgers. There he’s learned the Science of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology and has implemented it into his fighting style. “Now that I’m working with Shawn, Dwayne, and WHOOP, I’ve gained 5 pounds of muscle and am the fittest and lightest I’ve ever been. I’m down to 9% body fat and I’ve increased my power, agility, body composition, and VO2 Max.”
Jorge Diaz Jr. vs. Carlos Castro
Now with every tool in his corner, Jorge’s performance is consistently peaking. On Saturday, September 3rd at the Celebrity Theatre in Arizona, Jorge is taking on the undefeated Carlos Castro at the Iron Boy 35. As he takes his aggressive, defensive mentality to the ring, we’re honored to be in Jorge’s corner and support him as he defends his name – “King”. For tickets and information, visit IronBoyBoxing.com