If Joel Iriarte isn’t in bed sleeping or attending classes at Ridgeview High School, there’s a good chance the 15-year-old is in the gym honing his boxing skills.
Iriarte doesn’t take days off when it comes to training for combat inside the ring. He spends a minimum of two and a half hours every day of the year — including holidays — working on improving his already vast skills as an amateur pugilist.
The results of Iriarte’s Spartan-like workout regime are remarkable:
- The Bakersfield native has won eight USA Boxing national titles since 2015.
- He boasts a career record of 102-9.
- In other words, solar eclipses occur more frequently than Iriarte losses.
Iriarte’s status as one of the top amateur boxers in the country landed him an invite by Team USA to work out for a week in February at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
He’s scheduled to make a second stint of week-long training at the facility July 29 through Aug. 5.
Before that happens Iriarte will compete in the 2018 Junior and Youth Golden Gloves Nationals (July 18-21) in Mesquite, Nevada.
Iriarte will enter the tournament coming off a rare setback: Last month he had a three-year, 53-bout, winning streak snapped when he came up on the short end of a split decision following the conclusion of the 125-pound Junior Division title bout at the 2018 Junior Olympics, Prep Nationals and Youth Open in Charleston, West Virginia. Iriarte won two fights to get into the finals.
It was the first time the still-growing youth had competed at 125 pounds.
“It was a close match,” Iriarte said. “I thought I pulled it off. I was shocked with the decision. I was disappointed. I thought I could have done better. I had worked hard.”
Iriarte is currently ranked No. 2 by USA Boxing in the 119-pound Boys Junior Division.
The ultra-polite and mild-mannered Iriarte took up the sport eight years ago after visiting a gym in downtown Bakersfield run by his father’s friend, Jose Cardenas.
Iriarte trained under the late Cardenas for three years and then another coach for a couple of years before his dad, Cuauhtmoc, took over as his trainer three years ago.
The father-son combination has been virtually unstoppable. Iriarte won his first national title at age 13.
Late last year, he traveled to Salt Lake City and claimed a gold medal at the Elite and Youth National Championships.
That victory is what led to the talented student of the “Sweet Science” to get an invite to work out at the Olympic Training Center.
While in Colorado Springs in February, Iriarte trained with 2016 Olympic Bantamweight Silver Medalist Shakur Stevenson.
“It was a good experience,” Iriarte said. “We sparred with the best of the best. They had us training three times a day and it’s much tougher than what we do here.”
Though Iriarte is a big fan of former Mexican World Champion Juan Manuel Marquez, he doesn’t pattern his fighting style after anyone. Iriarte’s preferred approach is one of methodically wearing down opponents by taking the fight to them and pushing the action.
Iriarte completed his freshman year at Ridgeview with a 3.7 grade point average. Though he likes to be the aggressor in the ring, he also tries to fight intelligently and not take unnecessary risks.
During his entire career, he’s been knocked down only one time and never knocked out.
“I have speed and power,” Iriarte said. “Those two things along with my conditioning and determination are what I think makes me a better fighter (than most). I constantly put pressure on opponents and that tires them out.”
Iriarte’s superb conditioning and stamina comes from his non-stop training schedule.
Every day he runs five to six miles. Other aspects of his training include running sprints, hitting the speed bag, pad work with mitts, jumping rope, and sparring.
Two days a week he lifts weights. Iriarte also regularly watches videos of his fights, which consist of three two-minute rounds.
“We’re always preparing for tournaments, so I train every day, 365 days a year,” Iriarte said. “…I study film of myself to see what I can improve on. I always look at any mistakes I’ve made in the ring and try to correct them.
Iriarte readily admits that he has a deep love of boxing.
“It’s something I enjoy so I like to put a lot of time and effort into it,” Iriarte said.
All his hard work has made him one of the best amateur boxers in the United States. Eventually, it could make him a household name.
He hopes to earn a spot on the U.S. National Team for the 2020 or 2024 Olympics and then turn pro.
“I’m excited about my future,” Iriarte said.