SAN JOSE — Joseph Supnet-Puerile has spent the past month fighting for his life and fighting to regain mobility after a devastating car crash that killed two of his friends and injured two others.
So it was fitting that a fighter was the one to buoy his spirits Wednesday. Cain Velasquez, who holds the heavyweight belt in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, appeared in his Valley Medical Center hospital room to pay him a visit.
The 15-year-old’s eyes lit up, and he was momentarily speechless when his idol walked in with gear to sign for him.
“It was crazy,” Joseph said.
The meet was made possible by Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Jones and the San Jose-based American Kickboxing Academy, the training grounds for Velasquez and Jones’ brother Victor.
The kickboxing academy is a primary sponsor for the Heroes Run, an inaugural charity 5K run to be held Nov 9. The run is sponsored by the Sheriff’s Office and the Valley Medical Center foundation, with proceeds going toward upgrading the hospital’s pediatric department where Joseph received the bulk of his treatment.
“These kids are the true heroes,” Jones said.
Beyond the autographed fighting gloves, shirts and action figure, the well wishers, which included Velasquez’s trainer Javier Mendez and fellow heavyweight fighter Daniel Cormier, also told Joseph he would be flying to Houston for a front-row view of the champion’s Oct. 19 rubber match with rival Junior dos Santos.
Lying in his hospital bed and showing the ability to move his legs still encased in casts and braces, Joseph was speechless.
“He cares about his fans,” the San Jose teen said of Velasquez. “It’s pretty amazing. Everything about it.”
Jones said he first met Joseph last week when he was touring the pediatric facility while helping plan the charity run. In trying to strike up a rapport with Joseph, Jones started listing possible interests they shared; they quickly settled on UFC fighting.
Joseph told Jones that he and his father, Tom Supnet, were originally fans of Brock Lesnar until Velasquez pummeled Lesnar in 2010 for a first-round victory and the title belt that Velasquez has since lost and regained in fights with dos Santos.
“Joey said he thought Cain was going to beat (Lesnar),” Supnet said. “We’ve been behind him ever since.”
The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Velasquez, shadowed by a UFC camera crew shooting a special to air Oct. 9 to promote his title bout, said the visit helps him put the bright lights of his profession in perspective.
“They usually only see one side of us. We are people you can come up to,” Velasquez said. “It really touches your heart to help someone’s day out. He’s going to have this memory for a while.”
It was a welcome respite for Supnet and the rest of his family, who have been holding vigil over Joseph since the Aug. 10 crash that critically injured him. Just before midnight that Saturday, the teen and four other friends were riding in a car when the 19-year-old driver lost control and crashed into a tree on Chynoweth Avenue. The two front occupants, the driver and a 16-year-old boy, were killed.
Joseph and another friend were pinned underneath the car, with a rod impaling both their legs, Supnet said. A third surviving passenger suffered moderate injuries.
It sparked a harried night where Supnet learned through his children’s social media accounts that Joseph, who had been at a
sleepover, was involved in the crash. He visited multiple hospitals before coming to Valley Medical Center.
“For two days, I thought he wasn’t going to make it,” Supnet said. “I’m so thankful he’s alive.
Joseph was set to leave the hospital Thursday. Supnet has the house ready, using his skills as a homebuilder to install wheelchair ramps.
Jones said wheelchair or not, Joseph will be a guest of honor at the Heroes Run, noting that his unexpectedly rapid recovery will serve as inspiration.
Lifted by meeting his hero, Joseph was in the mood for optimism.
“I’ll be running, hopefully.”
For more information about the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Heroes Run, to benefit the Valley Medical Center pediatrics department, go to www.heroesrunscc.org.