Local Man Brings Boxing to Life On The Big Screen

Madhu Mayer | 1/22/2014, 11:54 p.m.

By all accounts, Joseph Awinongya of Joliet is living the American dream.

Before boxing promoter Don King brought him to the United States from Ghana in 1999, Awinongya boxed professionally in Italy, Germany, France and Belgium, encompassing a career record of 24-9-5. Now, the retired professional boxer spends his days at a Joliet gym training local youths to become boxers when not dabbling in a Hollywood career.

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, Awinongya's debut in the movie "Dreams" will be released on DVD at Wal-Mart, Target stores and iTunes. The video will also be available on demand on cable and pay per view.

The urban movie from Lionsgate Home Entertainment interweaves four powerful stories of inner city life as Chicago residents fight to overcome difficult circumstances to show that through hard work and pain, dreams still come true.

Ghana boxing trainer Awinongya portrays the character of Paalo, who dreams of building a world champion and mending his relationship with his daughter. Other characters in the two-hour film dream of singing, dancing and reconnecting with families, but the realities of abuse and failure from their broken pasts make the path to their dreams an uphill battle, according to the movie synopsis. Among those in the "Dreams" cast are Tommy Ford, who starred in television shows "Martin" and "NY Undercover" and Lou Myers, who had roles in the movie "Tin Cup" and the TV show "A Different World."

Since the film is inspired by true events, Awinongya, 39, said a producer who was familiar with his boxing background contacted him for the role. Though being a professional boxer is hard on the body, the father of three said it did not compare to acting in front of the camera.

"Doing a movie is the hardest job in the world," he said, referring to learning lines and acting for the first time in his life. While excited about the movie release, Awinongya said he has not given up his day job for Hollywood. Next month, he travels to Monte Carlo to watch one of his boxers fight professionally.

"To me, boxing is what I do," he said, adding that he travels all over the country and the world to train boxers. "I learn to talk to people when I am at the gym.''

Awinongya said what is most rewarding to him is showing troubled youths in Joliet that they do have options when it comes to life.

"I put my time training them and showing them how they can achieve things in life," said the man who became a boxer at the age of 15. He said it is important to show the younger generation that they can do anything in life as long as they put their mind to it and commit to hard work.

Awinongya said the movie, which mirrors some of the problems he has faced in his own life, is much more than a boxing flick.

"It is a touching movie," he said. "It reaches you deep in the heart. I credit Don King for all of my achievements."