On February 22nd, next Friday, Belgium born cruiserweight JOEL “BIG JOE” DJEKO will be making his New York debut at The Paramount in the main event of the critically acclaimed STAR BOXING series, “Rockin’ Fights”. Djeko will be taking on Italian SIMONE “TYSON” FEDERICI in what is set to be an all-world cruiserweight showdown between two stellar fighters, looking to lay roots in the United States.
Star Boxing sat down with Djeko, to learn more about his life, inspirations, and career goals:
Q: When were you born and where did you grow up?
DJEKO: I was born on July 30th, 1989, in Brussels, Belgium. I am of Congolese and Cuban parents. I grew up in this European capital and did all my education in schools for people with disadvantaged backgrounds.
Q: Have you done any community work for the impoverished communities you speak about?
DJEKO: For 7 years I am an ambassador of Change ASBL. This association fights against exclusion and its consequences, but also for equal opportunities. It offers opportunities for these impoverished young people to stay on the right path by taking different actions. I regularly give my time to this youth group to give them a positive outlook on life. I encourage them to get by and advise them in their choices when they need it.
Q: What was life like where you grew up?
DJEKO: Life was not easy. I grew up in a poor environment and had to fight every day to get by.
Q: How did you begin boxing?
DJEKO: I started with Thai boxing, but wanted to improve my fighting technique with fists so I started boxing. I fell in love with this sport and I never lost it again. I trained many years in the famous boxing club of Brussels with coach Leon Nzama. I owe him a lot for teaching me his old school boxing. Then I trained with Donald Turner in his Bootcamp in Atlanta which also gave me a lot of basics. Today I train at Fitzroy Lodge ABC gym in London held by Mark Reigate and Linton Aymer, because I moved to London in August of 2018 to further my training.
Q: Who is your favorite fighter(s)? Is there any fighter you try and emulate in the ring?
DJEKO: My favorite fighter has always been Thomas “Hitman” Hearns. But if I had to give active fighters that I try to emulate I would say, without hesitation, Andre Ward and Bernard Hopkins. They are geniuses of boxing for whom I have great respect after all of the belts they have won in different categories.
Q: What motto/quote do you live by?
DJEKO: I prefer to live 1 day as a hero than 100 days as a coward.
Q: What are your accomplishments in both amateur and professional boxing?
DJEKO: On the amateur side, I have been national champion. As for my career as a professional, I am the former IBA Intercontinental Champion, and current IBO Continental Champion. Today I am ranked 47thin the world.
Q: Do you have a family?
DJEKO: I have a sister and three brothers. I am married and have a pretty 6-year-old daughter.
Q: What is your life like now?
DJEKO: My very good international ranking allowed me to get sponsors, which allows me to live on only boxing. I spend all my time at the gym to improve myself more and more.
Q: How do you feel about fighting in New York?
DJEKO: I am excited for this fight, I can’t wait for the day to arrive. This stage is for me the opportunity to show myself to the real public of boxing and to unlock big fights that will arrive thereafter.
Q: How do you feel about signing with distinguished promoter Joe DeGuardia and his world renown promotion company, Star Boxing?
DJEKO: I’m super excited to be boxing under the banner of Star Boxing Inc. and I know that it’s with Joe DeGuardia that big fights with a global opportunity will arrive, very soon
Q: What are your career goals?
DJEKO: After this fight, I will go directly to boot camp to prepare my May 4th fight against Matty Askin (ranked 13thin the world and 2nd in the UK) for the IBO Intercontinental belt. This Victory will open doors for a World Championship, which is my goal. What I want above all is to refresh boxing by bringing him a new face.
I was boycotted and people always put sticks in my wheels. Coming up people wanted me to be a journeyman, but I knew I have the ability to be a world champion. Today I believe that I am at the same stage as the boxers who have always been promoted and protected. I have the rage, I’m not here to play. I come to take my place, that of world champion.
So, what I’m going to do is bring the world of boxing a new energy, mine and as General Big Joe, warlord, I intend to train my army and to know my fans.
I am a leader who attracts the public. Some boxers do it for the national level, I’m international and that’s why my audience comes from everywhere. Moreover, my English, Belgian and French fans do not stop contacting me to know how to see this fight of February 22nd.
Q: What do you want fans to know about you?
DJEKO: I’m trying to create my story in the history of boxing. Now is the time to start following me. Know that there is only one throne and crown and it is for me. I invite all fans of boxing in search of thrills and challenges to join me in my quest today. I will realize your expectations because I will break the doors of failure by the fists of Victory.
I am a pirate in the soul, I do not represent any Flag but my fans. And I pay special attention to all those people who come from underprivileged backgrounds, who are boycotted and set aside. I fight every day to show them that we must hang on and not fall into delinquency, I fight for these future generations to have the same chances of succeeding regardless of their social background. Know that nobody is condemned to failure and that no one can stop you if you have decided to not let them.
Thanks to all my fans, I’m waiting for you on February 22nd at The Paramount, in NY.