JOLIET – Fresh off winning the National Silver Gloves 8-9-year-old, 80-pound division, Joliet boxer Joseph “Jojo” Awinongya is No. 1 in the National Silver Gloves rankings.
He currently is competing in the National Junior Olympics in West Virginia, which began Sunday. Jojo’s father, former professional boxer Joseph Awinongya, said the tournament is a big deal for kids Jojo’s age.
“Junior Olympics means a lot to the kids because it gets you a ranking and a chance to travel,” he said.
In the Junior Olympics, Jojo is fighting in the 85-pound division for 10-year-olds. Joseph doesn’t think his son will lose a step in moving up to the next division. In fact, he reported Tuesday that Jojo will be in the championship match Wednesday.
“He spars with a lot of people, people heavier than him,” Joseph said. “He is the one they have to worry about.”
Jojo, who recently turned 10, discussed boxing, school, food and video games.
He was a bit shy at first, but his sharpness came through quickly. When asked his favorite subject at school, he replied, “math.”
Eight times five? Without hesitation or using his fingers, he said, “40.” Several more attempts to stump him went for naught.
Jojo, who is going into fifth grade, reads and writes at an eighth-grade level. For the Awinongya family, school comes before boxing, and it is something Jojo excels at.
“He does this because he is getting good grades in school,” Joseph said. “He doesn’t miss school. This is something we promised our son, if he is doing well at school, we will keep pushing him.”
As far as training, the young fighter would not say there was a single thing about it he did not like. “Everything,” Jojo said when asked about his favorite thing to do when training.
When deciding on one thing he didn’t particularly like, Jojo poked fun at his trainer, Jeramiah Bell, who pushes him hard when they train.
“Sometimes when I work with my personal trainer, sometimes I don’t like it,” Jojo joked.
When Jojo is not working on his boxing at his home gym, Chicago Sports & Fitness Club in Joliet, he is on the court dribbling a basketball or in the pool swimming.
Boxing and school are not the only things that keep Jojo busy. In fact, before leaving for the Junior Olympics last weekend, Jojo performed with the Generation Dance Company at the Rialto Square Theatre.
Jojo even has a speaking part in an upcoming feature-length film, “I Am Your Keeper,” with possibly more roles on the horizon.
Social media is another way Jojo is getting his name out there. You can follow him on his YouTube channel, Josephawin.