Outside of the boxing ring, Joel Iriarte is a mild-mannered 14-year-old who makes good grades and likes to have fun. But once the Ridgeview freshman steps inside of the ropes, his personality changes drastically.
He suddenly becomes a serious pugilist looking to rack up points and deliver knockouts with an array of fast, hard punches.
The Bakersfield native has been highly successful using his fists, winning six USA Boxing amateur national titles since 2015.
“I try to be as calm as possible,” Joel said. “I’ve never fought in school. I only do it for the sport. I’m a pretty good student, too.”
Joel began boxing eight years ago after visiting a gym run by his father’s friend, Jose Cardenas.
Joel trained under the late Cardenas for two years and then another coach for the next four years before his dad, Temo, took over as his trainer two years ago.
The father-and-son combination has produced stellar results, especially this year.
This past summer, Joel won the 106-pound Intermediate Division title at the 2017 USA Boxing Junior Olympics, Prep Nationals & Youth Open Championships in Charleston, West Virginia.
Last month, Joel claimed the 114-pound Intermediate Division championship at the 43rd Annual National PAL Tournament in Oxnard. He won the championship bout via a second-round TKO.
“I felt like I had the conditioning and the stamina to withstand whatever my opponent was going to give me,” Joel said. “I already had the mentality that I was going to win. So winning this last one, I felt glad that all the work in the gym paid off. I was pretty excited.”
Joel, who hasn’t lost in two years, is currently ranked No. 1 by USA Boxing in the 106-pound Boy’s Intermediate Division.
He has amateur career record of 97-8. Joel has never been knocked out and knocked down only one time. When that occurred, he got up off the canvas and rallied to win the bout.
The young right-handed (orthodox) boxer considers himself an aggressive fighter but is willing to adjust styles depending on the situation.
“If I see that my opponent is aggressive, then I’ll outbox him,” Joel said. “I’ll score points. I’ll make sure that I make him miss a lot. If he’s more of a boxer that likes to score points, then I’ll be the aggressor but fight smart and keep my hands up to make sure that I’m not caught with any shots that don’t need to be landed.”
Joel doesn’t try to pattern himself after any other boxer.
“I have a unique style,” he said. “However, I still try to get different techniques from different fights to see if that will help me in the ring.”
Joel trains two to three hours, seven days a week for his fights, which consist of three 90-second rounds.
His daily workouts entail running 6 miles, bag work, mitt work and cardio. He lifts weights two days a week and spars whenever he gets the chance, which most of the time requires a trip to Tehachapi, Fresno or Los Angeles.
Joel’s long-term boxing goals are to qualify for the 2020 Olympics and then turn pro.
“I love the sport,” Joel said. “It’s taught me a lot of discipline and a lot of character. I like to fight too.”
–Stephen Lynch, Bakersfield.com