The walls of James Joseph’s office are littered with faces of all the people he has helped in his 40-year career as a boxing coach, but he still feels like he hasn’t reached his ultimate goal.
He hopes all of that will change Saturday.
Joseph will be in charge of hosting the USA Boxing Junior Olympics regional championship, to be held at Gernon Brown Recreation Center in Lakeview.
The event begins at 6 p.m. with fighters ranging from ages 8 to 15, and Joseph said he hopes it will be “one of the proudest days of my life.”
“I’ve been building my whole career just to get to this point,” he said. “Giving these kids the opportunity to get involved in the system with USA Boxing and allowing them to participate in these events against some of the best fighters in the country is something I couldn’t be happier about.”
The winners will move on to nationals in June in Charleston, West Virginia. But even beyond the opportunity to compete in one of the biggest amateur boxing events in the nation, Joseph emphasizes giving kids the opportunity to experience different parts of the country and events they wouldn’t be able to see in their own communities.
Joseph’s focus throughout his career has been working with at-risk children in underprivileged communities, and he feels a key way to help some of the kids escape their surroundings is showing them different parts of the world and allowing them to experience things they’ve never seen before.
If Saturday’s event goes as well as he hopes, he will get to do just that.
“A lot of times with kids in these communities, they get stuck in the mentality of the people around them and they don’t know how to escape,” Joseph said. “Teaching kids how to box is my way of keeping them out of the streets and away from all the nonsense out there and, also, I want to help them see that there is a world outside of what they’ve been exposed to their whole lives.
“I’ve trained a guy before that was a drug addict his whole life and, once we started working with him and got him involved with boxing, it changed his life. That’s the real reason why I do this.”
Another success story that Joseph takes pride in is 13-year-old Elijah Wilson, a New Orleans native who will be participating in Saturday’s event.
Wilson said he has been boxing since he was 9 years old. He models his fighting style after his favorite boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“I’m really excited about the event,” Wilson said. “If I win, I’ll get to go to West Virginia, and if we win there, we get to go somewhere else. It’s always fun when you know you’re going against some of the best.”
Joseph will be rooting for all the kids that he has coached over the past few years in their fights Saturday, but he isn’t as concerned about who wins or who loses.
The way he sees it, every one of the kids participating will be gaining an unforgettable experience — and that’s all that matters.