Bartenders and boxing may seem an unusual pairing, but what better way to whip yourself into shape after a nightshift than via a trip to the ring in the morning? The Bartender Boxing Organization, sponsored by Cazadores, is “a program for bartenders to add a bit more discipline to our lives by punching a bag and dodging bullets, so to speak” said Damian "Niño Dios" Diaz, bartender for Everson Royce Bar (ERB) in Los Angeles. Diaz’s fight name comes from the fact that he looks a little bit like a young Jesus when he lets his man bun down, and he’s ready to go all in this summer.
Though he’s never participated in the sport, Diaz is no novice to the art of boxing. Growing up, his Saturday nights were spent watching Pay Per View Fight Night with his father, brother and uncles, and he said he’s always had this romanticized, nostalgic view of boxing.
“The art form and the discipline that these guys have mastered in the ring is something I respect, and I had to jump to be a part of it,” he said. “I really appreciate these guys putting together something like this. It’s an absolute honor to be a part of it, and to represent Everson Royce Bar and Los Angeles.”
For Diaz, training for the event has had an incredible impact on his lifestyle and general bartending habits. He explained that this year started out a little rocky — no pun intended — so in that sense, training for the upcoming competition has become not just a fitness regimen for him. Instead, it’s served as a true outlet and an opportunity to evaluate his lifestyle and focus on healthy living.
“Bartender Boxing couldn’t have come at a better time in my life,” he said. “It’s like a release and a form of therapy. The amount of energy you put into training and into the fight leaves you feeling stripped of everything — of ego, of energy, of water. You’re just left with this feeling of pureness, if that makes sense. You give it your all, and then you reflect as you sit there and catch your breath and drink your water. It’s a fantastic feeling; it’s a cathartic release for me.”
Like the other combatants, Diaz takes the competition seriously and doesn’t want to compromise the hard work he’s put in.
“One of the most difficult things, as far as training goes, was minimizing drinking,” he said. “Out of convenience, and sometimes necessity, you take a shot or two at work. Since training started, I’ve tried to think of the bigger picture. If you sit there and drink all weekend, you’re going to be back to square one on Monday when you go into the gym. I’ve really exercised a sense of discipline behind the bar by saying no to people trying to buy me shots.”
For those who may get offended by Diaz turning down a shot — it happens — he said he’ll throw back a shot of water and make it work. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Diaz has received an enormous amount of support since signing up to participate.
“A lot of my regulars and colleagues and fellow bartenders want to be a part of this and want to know where they can come watch us fight,” he said. “The amount of support has been astounding from all fronts.”
ERB’s owner has even made Diaz a custom robe and trunks, ensuring that he looks the part, as well.
“I’m not going to half-ass it,” Diaz said with a laugh. “I’m going all out. I’m going all the way in — it’s all or nothing.”
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