Fast forward to today. In addition to winning the Illinois State Middleweight title that night by disqualification (“He was going to get his ass kicked,” Miguel says), the senior Hernandez won the WBC USNBC middleweight title and fought in the boxing reality show, ‘The Contender’ in 2007 in notching a record of 20 wins (10 by knockout) and 12. Now retired, he works as a car inspector with the railways, spending time with his younger sons, Jeovani, 17, Justin, 16, and training Joshuah — who is now 21, signed with Warriors Boxing, and continues to wow the locals — especially the Puerto Ricans (which the Hernandez’s are) as a super featherweight (130 lb. division) with a professional record of 4-0, 4 knockouts.
A graduate from the Chicago Bulls College Prep School (from the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago), Joshuah is a junior at DePaul University studying Physical Education and Exercise Science by day and a professional boxer by night.
I catch up with father and son over the phone.
“I’m outside all day, man — the weather, whatever — I’ve got to be out there,” he says, laughing about the frigid temperatures. “I’m just working and being a father, man, training my kids. It’s been kind of hectic because you know, Josh’s schedule and my younger sons’ schedules are kind of crazy. My younger son (Justin) does a lot of wresting, so I have to divide my time, but it’s good, man!”
Joshuah Hernandez on why he chose to pursue the hardscrabble sport of boxing when he was an “A” student in high school
“I want to be a world champion. That’s my dream,” Joshua says, after greeting me.
“I know anything can happen with sports. I studied that in school and I’m there to win this. You know how athletes tear their ACL or get a detached retina — for little reasons that can end their whole career.
“I’m not one to put all their marbles in one basket and be a daredevil. Right now, I’m young, my body is in great condition, and I’m able to balance school work and train hard, so why not do it now as opposed to later, when I’m older?
“I mean, I’m already a junior. I have year and a half left of college and once I’m done with school, I’ll dedicate my life to boxing full-time. I’m already doing it full time — you know what I’m saying, (but) I have to go to school before I go to the gym.”
“Knockouts are cool. They get you the attention that the fans wanted, but I go in there looking to box, throw my jab, stay busy, but I never go in there looking for a knockout,” Josh maintains.
“And I believe I showed that in my last fight, too, where I had the guy hurt in the first round,” he says. “Well, I chose to be patient, because how many times have you seen a fighter go after a hurt guy and then get hurt, himself?”
On his upcoming opponent on January 21st at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago:
“Luis Rivera is three and three and he’s never been knocked out. He actually fought (WBA and IBO World Super Bantamweight champion) Rau’shee Warren on ShowTime and, so, it’s a good test for me because he’s been in there were some good guys,” Josh asserts. “The last two fights, he won. It’s my first fight I signed with Warriors Boxing. They want to see me in with a guy who can push me for six rounds, you know?”
“I’m comfortable with him. Boxing’s a dirty business and he looks out for me ‘cause he’s been through some things. But he’s also very smart,” he notes, the admiration clear in his voice. “There’s not that many fighters that turned pro at 30 years of age and took it as far as he took it — you could argue with minimal training because towards the end, he was training himself; nobody was his trainer.
“And I was there every step of the way, and now I’m a little bit older to truly understand what was going on. And I’m a good listener. I trust what he tells me to do. He’s my father; he wouldn’t want me to get hurt, so.”
“All my classes are in the morning, so once I get home from school, my father gets out of work at 3:00; we have the same gym, Sam Colonna’s Boxing Club — we’ll train there for about an hour and a half. Mondays and Wednesdays, we’ll spar at night. We spar with a lot of guys on Friday morning just because I don’t have school on Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays, we’ll do bag work — you know floor work, (hitting) a lot of pads. We do strength conditioning two times a week. And then, after we do that at Sam’s, we come home, I’ll eat, and I’ll head to X-Sport (where he works on conditioning; he works as a trainer at Unanimous Boxing Gym at 2764 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60647 as a fitness trainer) at night. And when I’m at X-Sport, I’ll run, I’ll swim, do different exercises.
“It’s cool ‘cause that’s what I go to school for now. I’m kind of my own strength and conditioning coach because I know what kind of exercises affect what kind of muscles, how my body should recuperate, and (the perils of) losing too much weight at the last minute, so I’m not willing to put myself through any of those things.”
On His Timeline to a Championship:
“The main focus here is one fight at a time. That’s it. Anything can happen. I learned very, very early in my early professional career that there’s a lot of empty promises in this sport, and you have to take it day by day ‘cause life is very short, and you have to enjoy every step of every day,” he offers. “Who’s to say? I might not be world champion. Maybe when I retire, I can sit down and say a-ight, I trained hard for however many fights I had and I went out and gave 110 percent — and that’s all that matters.”
On How He Spends Down Time
“Man! That’s a great question. Well, As you know, I’m an older brother so, since the day I could remember, my job was to be a role model to my younger brothers,” he states. “So when my down time comes around, I spend a lot of time with my younger brothers, whether it be playing Play Station, Call of Duty, or I’m cracking jokes.
“Talking to my mom,” he says of his mother, Yolanda Hernandez.
“I spend time with my older cousin. He’s like my big brother. I call him Junior, but his real name is Charles Swift — he prefers to be called Junior,” he effuses. “He’s actually in my corner. He actually has a little son who is his first son born in Chicago, so New Year, I was in the hospital, because that’s actually my godson, Josiah. So, I spend a lot of time with family. You know, I’m a family guy; I’m not so different from my dad. My spare time I’m with my family, man. I trust them the most and have a lot of fun with them, so.”
On Life After Boxing
“I could teach physical education in schools, I could work for a sports team being a personal trainer for a sports team, (but) I kind of have my life mapped out,” he says, the smile clear in his voice. “After boxing, I’ll go back to school, get a higher degree so I can work with a sports team, work with athletes at the professional level, then turn around and open my own gym so that professional athletes can be training at my gym — and take it from there, make it my family business.”
Last Thoughts and Thanks
“I just want to thank Sam Colonna for always being there. He’s always been there from the beginning,” he says. “He’s like my uncle/grandpa — I call him that all the time and he just starts cracking up! He’s definitely family. I’m very close to that man.
“You know, my father, for always being there for me and always sacrificing his own time. He’s made me a better athlete and better fighter.
“My mom gets the biggest thank you out of anybody ‘cause she’s the foundation. Without her, a lot of things don’t happen the right way. She fixes my trunks. All the patches you see on my trunk, she does that herself — the flags, the lettering. She cooks my meals, she does all that. She’s the main one.
“And of course, my family and all my supporters that buy tickets and come out to support me. I am forever grateful for them. I could argue that if they didn’t buy the tickets, I wouldn’t be getting on the shows with the promoter, like they did at the beginning of my career, now that I’m signed to Warriors.
“Other than that, obviously, Warriors came along and gave me a great opportunity, and I plan to make the best out of it. So, we’ll see what happens!”
Thank you. I hope you’re doing well — you and your family. Have a happy New Year.
Miguel Hernandez gets back on the phone and says, “Hey Juan. That was good, man. Thank you so much!”
This is like another dream come true, you know?” he continues. “He works hard, man!”
“My middle son, Jeovani, he’s very, very good in boxing, right? Joshuah says he’s even better than Josh,” he claims. “I mean, boxing’s not ever forced on anyone in my household. They’ve got to want it to be successful in it, so. Once he decides what he wants to do and he does it, you’ll be writing about him soon!”
"Thank you so much, brother," Miguel says. "Happy New Year to you and your family!"
And you, as well, Miguel.