ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Heavyweight prizefighting was outlawed in much of the United States in the late-nineteenth century; that’s when the sparring sport migrated south and quickly rose in popularity in Mexico. In the 20s, the Mexican government used sports to promote the country’s stability and success after the revolution.

By the mid-1930s, the first “golden age” of Mexican boxing unfolded in Mexico City and soon made inroads again in the United States, especially in Texas, which shares a rich history with Mexico and is heavily influenced by Hispanic culture.

The City of Odessa quickly became home to its own boxing legends, including the great Ruben Munoz, Jr. On July 18, 1982, the two-time Texas Gold Glove winning professional boxer won the USBA lightweight title in Atlantic City, New Jersey, against Arturo Frias with a fifth-round knock-out punch. But this story is not about the legendary Odessan who, years later, is still inspiring athletes in the Basin- it’s about the man who trained him. 

“He (Munoz), was a good fighter and he always put his heart in it,” trainer Jose Angel Joven said in an interview in 2021, upon Munoz’s death. It seems that, as talented as Munoz was, Joven was just as talented.

“Joe”, as he’s known by family and friends, has been called a “legend” in his own right by those who knew and loved him. A legend for the mark he made in the boxing world, as well as the business world. 

In the 1950s, Joe came to Odessa from Del Rio, where he met Yolanda, his wife of more than 60 years. Together, the couple raised a US Army veteran, an educator, and a businessman who later became the first Hispanic Mayor of Odessa.  The first generation American got his start in the business world at the tender age of 16, when, as a migrant worker, he ran his own crew from California and into Texas. A man of humble beginnings, he was no stranger to hard work.

“When he got to Odessa, he ran his own gas station, a small station, and later, managed the original Warfield Truck Stop, where he came to know so many people from the community. Then in the late 70s, he opened A-1 Roofing. It was a family run business, but the funny part is, how he got started- he just set his mind to running his company, but he once told me, ‘Now, did I know anything about roofing? No. But I was gonna do it’. And he did. It was hard work, but he taught us all that you are only as good as your word, and you have to back up your word with action. He was a pull yourself up by the bootstrap kind of man and if he had a goal, he was gonna make it happen. He taught us the value of hard work and being a man of your word,” said grandson Jasper Miranda. 

Miranda traveled to Odessa this week to remember and honor Joe, who passed away on September 13. It was a bittersweet reflection for Miranda, who sat down with ABC Big 2 News to talk about Joe’s life, and the legacy he left behind. In Miranda’s mind, one of the biggest impacts Joe had on the community was in the boxing world. 

“From my eyes, you can’t talk about the legacy and the rich history of boxing in Odessa without the name Joe. They’re intertwined. He worked with iconic boxers in the 70s and 80s. One of my first memories was going to the Boys and Girls Club where they would train. I remember watching them train. Not only did he train Ruben Munoz Jr., but he was also a champion boxer himself in Mexico and he trained many world-class boxers through the years. I just remember thinking that I would never want to get in the ring and train with him because, man, he was tough,” Miranda said.

Joe trained Munoz from the time he was nine years old until he turned pro more than two decades later. And Joe is widely credited with the popularity of the sport that remains in the Basin to this day. It’s a sport that prides itself on helping area youth stay out of trouble. 

West Texas Knock Out Boxing Club owner, Augie Tapia, is carrying on the work Joe started so many years ago. He hosts competitors from all over the world in competitions right here in Ector County- competitors who go on to become legends themselves. 

“Boxing is not a sport, it’s a competition. It’s difficult, jealous, and physical and it makes you a superhuman. Boxing makes a better human being out of a child, from the moment they step into the ring, kids that were in gangs or were delinquents, their lives are changed, they are turned around,” Tapia said. 

It’s a truth that Joe knew well, and it’s that kind of discipline that he wanted for his own children and grandchildren; he knew that hard work would offer them a better life. Miranda said Joe always tried to instill in them a determination to seek education and growth, no matter what. Throughout his life, Joe helped his Mexican born wife become a naturalized citizen and encouraged his children and grandchildren to pursue higher education.

“When my grandma got her citizenship, it was definitely a point of pride and joy. But he wasn’t prideful, he was humble, and taught us to be humble too, but to always pursue our dreams. If I ever wrestled with the thought of going back to school, he would just tell me to go for it. He would say I could do, and should do, anything I wanted. He wanted the best for all of us,” Miranda said.

To Miranda, Joe is an “unsung” hero and he just hopes that’s how the community will remember him.

“I really do think that my grandfather was one of those people who has a place in the history of this town. The boxing legacy and all the things he did behind the scenes. He’s one of those unsung heroes for the work he did and I hope that, years from now, when people think of the people of significance in this town…we know the movers and the shakers, we know who the big players are, but I want them to think also of Jose, who definitely left his mark on this town,” Miranda said. 

If you’d like to learn more about the sporting legacy Joe left behind, visit the West Texas Knockout Boxing Club’s Facebook page for information on how you can become a member and a competitor. There, you’ll also find information on sparring events in the area.