Little Josh can still count on one hand how old he is, although he uses all four fingers and a thumb now.
He’s still the typical kid who enjoys watching YouTube and playing Fortnite. His favorite basketball player is Steph Curry these days (sorry LeBron) and he can’t wait to start kindergarten. He’s the same caring big brother with a big heart, who loves to hang out with his 2-year-old sibling, Rudy.
He also has a reminder in case anyone forgot about last year’s viral Josh Fight: “I’m the king!” Josh Vinson Jr. — better known by his loyal followers as Little Josh — declared recently at his father’s barbershop, Culture Cutz, in the Bethany neighborhood.
A year after he was declared winner of the first-ever Battle of the Joshes, the 5-year-old is not quite ready to relinquish his crown with this year’s sequel scheduled for May 21.
“He’s coming to win, so you guys better watch out,” said his dad, Josh Vinson Sr.
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Little Josh was catapulted into unexpected stardom as the endearing champion of last year’s Josh Fight, the viral event that drew hundreds of people from across the country to Lincoln last April wielding pool noodles to fight over the name Josh. The coronation was complete with an oversized Burger King crown that fell to Little Josh’s shoulders.
Indeed, in the days that followed, he enjoyed a taste of royalty.
The Washington Post and New York Times came calling. “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” too. ESPN’s “SportsCenter” ran a segment on the Josh Fight. In Lincoln, people recognized the King of Joshes at the mall or would send him fan mail, including a custom painting and commemorative pins. A GoFundMe raised more than $2,000 for a college fund.
“It was overwhelming there for a little while,” said the elder Vinson, who was in barber school at the time and opened his own shop in August.
But outside of that, life has been pretty normal for Little Josh, his dad says. He’s goes to Rosemont Day Care and Preschool and particularly enjoys video games, surfing YouTube, basketball, riding his bike and playing outside. His family — including his three older half-siblings and mom Chrissy Biaggio — enjoyed a vacation in Florida last summer, too.
“He’s just a normal 5-year-old boy,” said Vinson, who has documented his son’s journey on Instagram.
While Little Josh can’t wait for it to heat up so he can go swimming, it’s kindergarten this fall at Riley Elementary School that he’s really looking forward to.
“Ever since we told him he was going to school, he’s been waking up every morning asking, ‘Am I going to school yet? Am I about to go to school?’ And I’m like, ‘You gotta wait a whole another six months, man,'” his dad said.
Little Josh was one finger younger that day when he and his dad rolled up to the grass field in Air Park with the pool noodles they bought at Walmart. When the signal came to commence fighting, Little Josh — wearing all grey with a black chest plate — didn’t follow the game plan his dad had crafted.
“I look behind me and he’s taking off,” Vinson said. “He was out there on a tear, man. He was on a mission.”
When all was said and done, Little Josh said he was hit just two times but managed to swat many more, enough to earn him the crown.
A year later, Little Josh is still a bit of a celebrity. On the window of Culture Cutz, a decal proudly declares: “Little Josh gets his hair cut here!!”
His dad ordered custom T-shirts and hats to remember the occasion and even etched a crown into his son’s hair (Dad’s the “best barber,” according to Little Josh). He also got to visit the mayor’s office and meet state senators.
Little Josh’s victory was fitting, said Josh Swain, the Arizona man whose viral tweet inspired the Battle of the Joshes. In addition to garnering nearly a ton of food for the Food Bank of Lincoln, the fight also raised more than $13,000 for the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center Foundation in Omaha, where Little Josh spent time around Christmas in 2019 after suffering from a series of fever-induced seizures.
He hasn’t suffered a seizure since, and the too-big Burger King crown seemed in a way to celebrate that fact.
“Everyone shared their joy that day,” Swain said over the phone last week.
Swain wasn’t sure what to expect when he showed up to the fight last year. But when it was over, Swain guesses about 1,000 people showed up. In truth, there were two battles that day — a rock-paper-scissors fight between Swain and an Omaha man also named Josh Swain (the Omaha Swain lost) and then an all-out pool noodle fight.
“It was like a weird fever dream,” Swain said.
The first iteration was such a success that he’s coming back with a revamped round two at 11 a.m. May 21 at Bowling Lake Park including food trucks, a costume contest and prizes.
Organizers originally planned to sell tickets, but rethought that plan. Now, attendees are simply asked to RSVP online at thejoshfight.com, where you can also make a free-will donation.
Whether Little Josh can hold onto his title as King of the Joshes depends on whether any worthy challengers show up. “We’ll have to see who else answers the call,” Swain said. “He put up a valiant fight last year.”
Little Josh still has his red pool noodle, although good luck getting your hands on the crown (his grandma framed that). Vinson Sr. says his son won’t be as little this year, either: A year’s worth of growth makes you faster and stronger, of course.
He’s also quite the smart kid, too, which Vinson credits to the Josh Fight experience and the media blitz that followed.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “This is my son. He carries my name, so it’s fun just seeing people root for him.”
Contact the writer at email@example.com or 402-473-7225. On Twitter @zach_hammack