You might not be a big fan of boxing, but there’s a good chance you’ll like Houston’s own Juan Diaz. He’s 20 years old, an undefeated world champion, and an athlete who values his education as much as his sport. The fighter works as hard in the classroom as he does in the ring.
At the Savannah Boxing Gym on the city’s southwest side, Juan Diaz arrives for a workout just like the dozens of other aspiring boxers there…blue shorts, a white t-shirt and no entourage. This is not what you’d expect from someone who just won the WBA lightweight championship two weeks ago and is one of boxing’s up-and-coming stars. But for Diaz, boxing is just one part of his life. Later this month, he’ll begin classes at the University of Houston Downtown as he works his way toward a degree in political science.
Diaz has been balancing his life as a professional fighter and a student for several years now. He’s taking three classes this fall, just enough to keep him busy with bookwork as he trains to defend his title later this year.
Willie Savannah is like a proud father when he talks about Diaz. He owns the gym situated in the tough Gulfton neighborhood and began training Diaz when he was 8 years old. At the University of Houston Downtown, executive director of student affairs Tommy Thomason taught Diaz in a computer class and didn’t even know he was a professional boxer until other students told him.
Diaz says he’d like to box for another five years or so and then move on to the next chapter in his life.