Following in father's footsteps, Awinongya becomes national Silver Gloves champion
Joseph Awinongya knew his son would be on the path to becoming a pro fighter the moment he ran into a bit of difficulty in the ring and didn’t look to him for all the answers.
“I just sat back and let him go to work,” Joseph Sr. told the Will County Gazette regarding his philosophy of letting his son figure things out for himself, which he adopted while being counseled by Muhammad Ali’s legendary trainer, Angelo Dundee.
“The idea is for him to learn how to deal with tough situations and think things through for himself,” added the man who was signed by Don King and who posted a 12-9-5 career record as a pro. “I learned from Angelo Dundee it’s better for a fighter to use his own mind while he’s in the ring.”
Fast-forward to last month at the Silver Gloves Nationals in Independence, Missouri, and it became apparent Awinongya’s hard-knock approach when it comes to training his son has done wonders.
Young Jo Jo, as he’s known by those in his camp, won all three of his fights for the 8 to 9-year-old, 80-pound division in convincing fashion en route to becoming a national Silver Gloves champion.
Father and son were fueled by their burning desire to represent their home state of Illinois. Jo Jo knocked off fighters from California, Texas and Washington, using an admonishment from his dad that grapplers from out West generally make for the best fighters to keep himself sharp and focused from start to finish.
Though each of his bouts went the distance, he was never seriously challenged and scored a standing eight-count against the fighter from California.
“I was ready,” Jo Jo Awinongya said. “I train three hours every day and I just did what dad and I work on. I had fun in the ring, it just makes me want to keep pushing to be the best.”
From now on, he’ll be doing it all with an eye on the 2024 Olympics, which he and his dad have highlighted as one of their long-term goals.
First comes the Junior Olympics -- slated for later this summer in Virginia -- which father and son have circled as another opportunity for Jo Jo to make some noise from coast to coast.
“He was born at the right time to be a star,” Jo Jo's father added, boldly predicting that his son won’t lose another tournament in his ongoing quest. “When you believe and have faith, some things you just know, just like I predicted that Don King would sign me to my first pro contract.”
Beyond his straight-A son, Awinongya is also hoping boxing will prove to be a source of inspiration for many of the other kids he works with in Joliet.
“The kids here need something to believe in and feel proud about,” he said. “I want to give kids in Joliet encouragement. Our city needs to step up and do that, and boxing can be the trigger for some of them.”
It’s certainly opening doors for the Awinongyas. Father and son are set to star in a video about their special relationship, which will be distributed in libraries across the state.
Jo Jo Awinongya fights out of the Chicago Sports & Fitness Center in Joliet and counts Hawk Chevrolet Cadillac of Joliet, Aschinberg Pediatrics, and Good Shepherd Heating Air Conditioning & Refrigeration as sponsors.
“All the support means a lot,” Jo Jo's father said. “Jo Jo loves making everyone proud, and the people showing the kind of interest that they do makes him train and fight even harder.”