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Joseph Valtellini: The Kickboxer as Artist – Part One

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bazookajoeWhen you talk with Joseph Valtellini, you can hear him smile through the telephone. Especially when talking about kickboxing and his upcoming welterweight title fight at Glory 17 against newly crowned champion Marc De Bonte. He is passionate about the sport and has a burning desire to be a champion. That same passion comes out when he talks about the artistic side of kickboxing. He finds the beauty within the violence of the knockout.

During his fights with Glory, commentator Duke Roufus has compared Valtellini to a young Oscar De La Hoya, Giorgio Petrosyan and Arturo Gatti. The De La Hoya comparison was in reference to the quality of opponents that he has faced so far in his young career. The Petrosyan one referred to his defensive prowess and the Gatti one came due to his willingness to stand and fight. Gatti and Petrosyan are two very different fighters, but in ways, Valtellini has shown elements of both of their styles in his fights.

Like any artist Joseph works at his craft. For him and his coaches it starts with the basics.

“We are huge on the basics.  They are one of the biggest reasons I have been so successful in my career.  I am a big believer in the basics.  I’m not one of these people that get caught up in the new trends.  I really want to go with what has been the most successful way of doing things.  My strength coach is the same way, I see so many strength coaches doing these new types of exercises in training.  My coaches are focused on the basics…All of the best fighters have a strong foundation built on the basics so we have been big of the basics my whole career.”

This focus on the basics is something you see from the great artists in all art forms. They all have that foundation to build from. With a deeper understanding of the basics the further they can take themselves within their art form. Joseph is looking to take himself to the top of the kickboxing world.

He works hard at the basics despite a schedule that includes a full-time job as a Physical Education teacher for special needs children, as well as training for his upcoming title fight on June 21st.

Here are some of his thoughts about the title fight and his opponent Marc De Bonte at Glory 17:

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to fight for the Glory welterweight title…When Marc De Bonte was fighting Karapet (Karapetyan) Twitter kind of blew up with the support of the fans from all over the world. They were saying that the belt should be with either myself or Nieky (Holzken). I was very thankful to all the fans and their support and getting it out there… I know it is a quick turnover for De Bonte…They asked him in his post-fight interview if he would fight me and right away he accepted. Thanks to Marc for accepting the fight and to the fans for helping me get this chance to make my childhood dream a reality. I am very excited. This is my time.

“Marc De Bonte is a great fighter. He’s very experienced for 24 years old. I think I might be his 100th fight (he will be). So he has that experience behind him but I think when people saw all my previous fights they see the quality, the power and the intensity I bring into the ring…Again, I just have to thank the supporters and fans for being so educated in the sport of kickboxing.”

Joseph is educated in more than just kickboxing. He has a degree from the University of Toronto in Physical Education where he also played Canadian football serving as the kicker and punter until an injury ended his career. It did not end his kickboxing career. It just delayed it.

In part one of this interview we will look at how he trains and prepares as an artist to fight.

For a true artist of jazz like Miles Davis, he would spend hours learning a note or sequence he might only play once in some smoky club. The work he would put in rehearsing and the sacrifices he made would allow him to be the greatest artist that he could be in those moments.

For the jazz musician, not everybody is willing to put in the time for a moment that might not happen, but the true artist does. They want to be ready for any moment that might arrive during a performance. For an art form  like jazz that is at its best live, and is built around improvising, the more range you have the more possibilities are open to you as an artist.

It is the same for the kick boxer. The more skills and techniques they are able to execute proficiently the more ready they are for whatever moments might happen in the fight. The great ones, the champions, are in a constant state of improvement and growth.

You see that with Joseph in his fights.  He is constantly evolving as a kick boxer and much of that comes from the way he trains. Combining great coaching techniques with knowledge, talent, focus and a hard work ethic.

The basis for his focus and work ethic started out with his parents.

“My parents both came from Sicily and they both had to work really hard to support a family. They made sure that their kids had a home and food. To do that my parents had to work really hard and that hard work mentality rubbed off on the kids. No matter what I do I have to put in my full effort, my fully energy. I would not be comfortable doing something that I wasn’t fully there for it.

“No matter what I did, whether it was soccer, swimming or a regular card game I have to win and I have to be the best.  I was never satisfied with losing. Even from an early age I hated losing. I also had parents that were very supportive and guided me in a way that allowed me to be successful.

“With Taekwondo, if I had a tournament coming up I was training everyday because I knew that in order to win I had to put in a lot of effort, and a lot of focus…It became addicting that whole working very hard and winning…So, I had that kind of hard work mentality from really early in my sports career.”

Joseph does not just work hard but he also works and trains very intelligently. One thing that becomes very clear is his intensity of focus. Even during his time in college he was focused on his kickboxing career.

“When I went into the university right away I learned a lot about energy systems and how they relate to sports. Then, just applying what I was learning to my training…realizing I am using this energy system like why are people running 20k for a nine minute fight – it just didn’t make any sense. So, I asked questions and I did all my projects, and my research geared towards my sport. Then applying it to my training.”

This also helps him keep his training streamlined. With his schedule he has no time for wasted moments.

“It’s the same approach I still use today. It’s a complete understanding, the science behind it, and why you do it… It leads to a clear purpose with my training. I know I don’t have a lot of time like most people do but I feel that my conditioning, my strength and my cardio is better than most people because maybe they’re not understanding the real science behind how the body works. I think that is a big advantage I have in my training by knowing the physiology with my background in Health and Physical Education and applying it from an early age.

“I also go for a quality over quantity approach…I make sure that every time I’m in a training session I am really maximizing my time and everything has a purpose. I do not believe in doing things that do not have a purpose…My coaches are big on that as well, every time I’m in I’m learning and we take full advantage of the time together…When we are working we are working, there are no distractions, and everybody is on the same page. I’ve been around some teams where there are a lot of breaks in between and a lot of chatting. Again, kudos to my coaches and team.”

Joseph is also quick to acknowledge his coach’s role in his constant evolution as a fighter.

“A lot of credit to my coach who even as an amateur had me training for these high level fighters. Within my first class I am learning strategy and techniques that will help me 10 years down the road. So, I really have to thank my coach for giving me that skill set to be able to do that.  

“I also train constantly. It’s not I like go through camps. I train all year-long. I am always learning. That is why we do this sport, there is always something to work on to improve after every fight. I am continually getting better. I think from Japan to now I am a totally better fighter. I’ve closed up holes, improved other areas of my style and I think everyone is going to see that on June 21st.”

Champions not only just evolve they also know how to objectively look at a loss and learn from it. When asked what he learned about himself in his loss to Nieky Holzken he did not hesitate with his answer.

“I learned that I want it really bad. I want to be the Glory world champion really badly and no matter what it takes, the amount of energy, the amount of heart and the work ethic it takes – I am willing to do it. I think everybody saw that in that fight and I think that is one of the reasons that people want to see me take that title. They see that passion, that drive that motivation to be the best. This is something I have wanted as a child and getting this opportunity now is just making me work really hard.

“From a technical standpoint I just felt like defensively it could have been a little bit better. That is an area I always want to improve. My ultimate goal is to go into the fight and not get hit once. If I get hit one time that is one time too many. So, trying to close up all those holes, learn and just keep getting more experience in during training. Then I can deal with the different strategies and styles of my opponents.”

When watching Joseph fight one of the things you notice his adjustments during the fights. A good example of that was his fight with Raymond Daniels. In that fight he started out defensively with his hands held high. He also used his movement to control the distance and avoid Daniels’ varied attacks.Through the first two minutes of their fight, Joseph threw few strikes. He started to open it up a little in the last-minute of the round.

It was one of his least aggressive rounds in his Glory career. That changed in the second round as Joseph came out much more aggressively and started to attack Daniels’ legs. He was also working the head and body with his punches but it was his leg attack that slowed Daniels down. He then went on and got the finish in the third.

When it comes to being able to do this consistently well he is quick to credit his training.

“It’s the way I’ve been trained to be the master in the ring. That’s why my coach is confident that even if he is not there he knows he’s trained me, given me the knowledge to make the adjustments to what I see in the ring during the fight. It’s the way we have trained from day one and it shows in my fights.”  

Joseph also has a deep desire for knowledge and understanding.

“It is all about the learning and the way I learn, that higher level learning that we do at Ultimate Martial Arts. I do not learn just the strategy but also the concepts behind it…I am not comfortable just knowing something if someone tells me I have to do my own research. I want to understand it fully. So, when I learn something and my coach teaches me an application of a technique I want to know it in-depth. I want to fully understand it.

It is easy to see the results of his training and its effectiveness in the Glory ring. He has gone 4-1 in Glory fighting against some of the best fighters in the world with all four wins coming via KO/TKO.

In part two of this interview we will look at Joseph’s fighting style, some of his fights, get his thoughts on the artistry of the sport and the beauty of a knockout.

Joseph would like to thank:  Paul Minhas at Ultimate Martial Arts, Strength and Conditioning coach Costa Kladianos at Tempus Performance Gym, Beast Sports Nutrition, Kimura Wear, Inside Fitness Magazine and Americana MMA. You can follow him on Twitter @BazookaJoeV.

photo credit – Glory WS

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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