By Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
Joliet resident Joseph “Jo Jo” Awinongya, 9, knows what it takes to be a champion.
So, when an opportunity arose to put his city on the map, he said this is it.
Awinongya said it felt good being recognized by the Joliet City Council for his accomplishments.
“It makes me want to train harder for the Junior Olympics,” he said.
Joliet officials presented Awinongya with a proclamation honoring him for his achievements at their March 7 meeting.
In February, Awinongya claimed the rights to the 8 to 9-year-old 80-pound division title at the 2017 Silver Gloves National in St. Louis.
Awinongya started boxing at age 5 and shortly thereafter started competing. Since that time, he’s had 16 amateur bouts and ranks No. 1 in the nation.
JoJo’s father, Joseph Awinongya, Sr. said it brings great meaning to know his son’s accomplishments were being recognized.
“For me, I’m very, very honored today to come over here with my son,” he said. “One thing about him, he don’t fight like a little kid,” he said.
Joseph first settled in the City of Joliet in 2004, at which time he came with the intent to put an end to his professional boxing career.
“One thing that when I came to Joliet, I said… Joliet should be a boxing city,” he said.
Joseph recognizes the way gyms in Chicago train boxers, and said he decided that he wanted run a facility of his own.
“I know that when you want something, you have to go for it,” he said. “You have to push it. Most of the time, I push my kids.”
“Most of the time when we go to other gyms, they ask me, ‘[why does] he fight better than me?’” he said. “I’m a professional. A lot of people say, ‘I’m a professional and he fight better than me.’”
One day, Joseph put plans in motion to open a boxing gym called Will County Boxing.
“From the beginning, I had all those kids [running] to the boxing gym,” he said.
Joseph said what many trainers don’t know is that they don’t foster growth within their boxers in the right way.
“It’s not something that can get you to the next level,” he said of other trainers. “[It’s about] boxing, training and doing good at school.”
Joseph said it’s not just his son that appears to be doing well, many of the kids reap the benefits of training at his gym.
“They can do whatever they want to do,” he said. “You just have to help them a little bit.”
Jo Jo is currently training for the 2017 Junior Olympic Youth Open and Prep National Championships, which will begin June 28 in West Virginia, with an endorsement and sponsorship provided by Hawk Chevrolet of Joliet.
Joliet boxer Joseph “Jo Jo” Awinongya, 9, stands before the Joliet City Council to be recognized for his achievements. (Megann Horstead / For The Bugle)
Joliet boxer Joseph “Jo Jo” Awinongya receives recognition from the Joliet City Council for his recent accomplishments. (Megann Horstead / For The Bugle)