Joel Diaz is the brother of Julio Diaz and Antonio Diaz. Raised by his grandparents, he relocated with his brothers to Coachella, California from Michoacan, Mexico at age 12 to be with his parents, who were field workers. The oldest child, Joel worked construction and delivered newspapers to help provide money. He began boxing at age 13 and 138 pounds with trainer Lee Espinoza. Diaz claimed, "People made fun of my weight. I kept getting beat up but I kept going back. I started getting better and better with practice."
At 18, Diaz turned professional because it could provide money for the family. He won his first nine bouts, all by decision, before losing to Mexican bantamweight champion Tony Wilson (23-7-1) via fourth-round knockout. The second loss of his career came to eventual IBF World Champion Hector Lizarraga (25-8-5). In June of 1996, Diaz scored the biggest win of his professional career by outpointing Mexican champion and eventual world title challenger Javier Marquez (41-17-3). The win earned Diaz a shot at the IBF Lightweight Title, held by undefeated Philip Holiday (28-0). Holiday, who had claimed the title a year earlier, was coming off a second-round stoppage of Jeff Fenech. Diaz lost this title shot in South Africa to Holiday by unanimous decision and, either in training for the bout or during the fight itself, suffered an injury to his right eye which would end his boxing career prematurely.
After being forced to retire, Diaz became a sheet metal worker and admittedly began to lose his way. At the recommendation of his mother who noticed the change, he began training fighters after work. His success working as the head trainer for his brothers gained him some recognition as a cornerman and in 2004 Diaz teamed with Timothy Bradley, who was looking to turn pro.
- Olderman, Murray. "He Made Boxing Bloom in the Desert" The Los Angeles Times (2003, May 11) Article
- "Former Boxer Joel Diaz Dedicated To Building Champions" CoachellUnincorporated.org (2012, June 12) Article