Daiyaan Butt’s father, AJ, had his son’s best interest in mind. So even though it wasn’t what he wanted, he talked to his son’s coach, Raul Rivas, about Daiyaan taking a year off from school to focus on training.
“[AJ] told me, ‘I don’t want to interfere with my son’s dreams, so I’m going to give him one year off from school and if I don’t see anything in that one year, boxing isn’t going to be an option,’ ” Rivas said. “I was OK with that because Daiyaan had what it would take to be a really good fighter.”
A year later, Butt entered the ring for his 2018 professional boxing debut. He quickly gained his parents’ support by defeating Samuel Forjoe (0-5) in four rounds on a judges’ decision.
While preparing for his Thursday match against Bryce Mills (7-1), Butt, who has a 10-1 record, has trained with Rivas everyday. But he has now returned to life as a full-time student at Temple, blending classwork with a professional boxing career.
Butt went back to school when he was ready. He graduated from Haverford High School in 2016 and enrolled at the Community College of Philadelphia. But he struggled to balance that with amateur boxing.
“I just wasn’t ready for school at the time being 18,” Butt said. “I really wanted to wait, I didn’t want to waste money at school and waste my time.”
Although he took a year off, Butt knew training wouldn’t be easy either. Neither would getting his family’s approval. Growing up in West Philadelphia, he is the youngest and has three sisters and one brother — all of whom went to Temple. His parents always stressed the importance of education. Butt’s father is a heart surgeon, while his brother is a doctor and one sister is a prosecutor.
But Butt’s close-knit family supported and protected each other in all endeavors. Part of Butt’s interest to pick up boxing stemmed from kids at school making comments about his family being Muslim and Pakistani.
Butt’s path to becoming a professional boxer meant getting rid of all the distractions in his life. He switched from James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym in West Philly, where he did his amateur training, to TKO Fitness in Cherry Hill to work with Rivas.
Rivas has built professional boxers like Tevin Farmer, who held the IBF super featherweight title from 2018 to 2020, and Jason Sosa, who held the WBA super featherweight title from 2016 to 2017. When he first met Butt, who was 30-5 as an amateur, Rivas didn’t want to turn him pro because of his limited boxing experience.
“He had to learn my system; my system takes time,” Rivas said. “You’re gonna learn there’ll be times you might be a punching bag, because that’s just the reality of the level of competition that I have to prepare him for.”
Every day, Butt woke up at 5 a.m. to run from 30th and Market Street to Upper Darby. Rivas saw Butt’s dedication throughout that one year. He was in the gym six days a week, working with the other boxers and learning how to use his 6-foot frame in the ring.
“It was more about nutrition, diet, sleep,” Butt said. “Every little thing that you can do to be ready, because eight-ounce gloves with no headgear are way different from when you’re 17 wearing headgear and your gloves are padded.”
In the fall of 2020, Butt enrolled at Temple as a sophomore with a management information systems major. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, all gyms were closed, which forced Butt to work out from home and complete classes online for a couple of months.
Once gyms opened up, Butt felt rusty when he went back in the ring. He pushed through. The most challenging fight he encountered became his only loss, as Matt Gaver defeated him in June in Orlando.
“That’s one of those fights where I started taking boxing for granted,” Butt said. “I was slipping up a little bit. I thought nobody could beat me; it was a very bad mentality. You always have to stay humble.”
Following the fight, Butt was focused on maneuvering in the ring and making sure he did not expose himself as he did in that loss. On Dec. 4, Butt showed his growth by knocking out Jimmy Rosario in the first round.
Now in his junior year, Butt has a tight schedule. He goes to the gym between classes and then back to the gym after his last class at 4 p.m.
“I’m actually enjoying school now, which sounds weird,” Butt said. “But I like going to school and doing my homework.”
Although the end goal is becoming a champion in the boxing world, Butt hopes his degree will help him market himself in other areas. He looks at Muhammad Ali as someone who achieved that by being an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
“I want to be bigger than boxing,” Butt said. “I don’t want to just stop boxing. I want to be able to do things with boxing. I don’t want to be labeled just as a boxer.”