Jahmal Harvey, Rashida Ellis and Rahim Gonzales target 2024 Olympics

USA Boxing’s reigning world champions – Maryland featherweight Jahmal Harvey, Massachusetts lightweight Rashida Ellis and Nevada light heavyweight Rahim Gonzales – have all decided, albeit for different reasons, to remain boxers. Olympic-style elite amateurs rather than joining the professional ranks.

Harvey pursues his dream, Ellis takes care of unfinished business, and Gonzales has proven to be a model of perseverance.

“With three world champions currently on the team, USA Boxing is in an excellent position on the road to Paris 2024,” commented USA Boxing’s High Performance Team Director Matt Johnson. “We have a good mix of boxers, such as Rashida and Rahim, who bring years of experience to the table having been on the team throughout the previous quad. When you combine that with the younger talent of someone like Jahmal, it makes for a very well-rounded team with multiple leaders who can show what it takes to be a world-class boxer.

Today, more than ever, elite boxers remain amateurs thanks to the USA Boxing program. USA boxers are housed and fed at the USA Boxing campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they train at the state-of-the-art USA Olympic and Paralympic Training Center under the direction of a coaching staff world class run by Billy. Walch. Athletes also have a strength and conditioning coach, a nutritionist, and even a publicist. Plus, they receive a comfortable monthly stipend, and some international events now offer scholarships to the top three, up to $100,000 to world championship winners.

Like many boxing teams from foreign countries, USA Boxing now offers every incentive for boxers to stay and continue to develop, rather than just turning pro for money to pay the bills.

Harvey, 19, has been hailed by many as America’s next great boxer. He became the first U.S. World Championship gold medalist since Demetrious Andrade in 2007. Last November in Serbia, Harvey shut out 2020 Kazakhstan Olympian Serik Temirzanov 5-0 in the championship final.

“It was a great preparation for me in Paris in 2024,” said Harvey of his invaluable experience acquired during these World Championships. “I was away from home for the first time, two months. I fought in an arena, took a walkout, and fought for the first time without headgear. I think it makes you more defensive because you can see punches coming from your device. All the media attention I received there and afterwards will make me better too.

Harvey, of Oxon Hill, Maryland, had the opportunity to turn pro, of course, and receive a lucrative signing bonus, but he’s chasing his dream of being the first American to win a gold medal. in Olympic boxing since Andre Ward in 2004.

“I really want to be an Olympic gold medalist and build my resume,” Harvey explained. “It (the Olympics) takes place every four years. I will probably turn pro after 2024; I’m not sure for 2028, if there’s Olympic boxing, but that would be my home in America (Los Angeles), so I might be persuaded to stay for another cycle.

“It’s always a question of money. I’m living a stable life right now, but I want to work on my legacy. Getting a name before I turn pro (by winning Olympic gold) with my resume, I’ll earn even more when I turn pro and can retire sooner. I will probably fight at 126-130 as a pro.

Often compared to Terence “Bud” Crawford and the late Aaron Pryor, Harvey believes the top contenders in his weight class for the 2024 Olympics are in the same group he fought at the World Championships or AMBC Elite. 2022 (Continentals): Gabriel do Nascimento (Brazil), who beat (4-1) Harvey (won first two games against Nascimiento) in the 2022 AMBC Elite Tournament Championship Final, seeded No. 1 Olympic 2020 Mirazizbek Mirzakalilov (Uzbekistan), and silver and bronze medalists at last year’s Worlds, respectively, Temirzanov (Kazakhstan) and Samuel Kistohuray (France).

Ellis, 27, is the product of a fighting family in Lynn, Massachusetts. His brothers, undefeated welterweight Rashidi (24-0, 15 KOs) and super middleweight Ronald (18-3-2, 12 KOs), are successful professional boxers.

Unlike most of his 2020 United States Olympic boxing team members, Rashida decided almost immediately after suffering a questionable first-round loss in the Tokyo Olympics to go for gold in Paris.

She became the first American boxer to win a gold medal in an Olympic weight class at last May’s World Championships in Turkey since the great Claressa Shields in 2016, taking a 3-2 decision from her rival, Brazilian Beatriz Ferreira, who recently beat Ellis, 4-1, in the 2022 AMBC Elite Tournament in March.

“I feel like I deserved it because I’ve been doing this for a while and I had a few upsets in the final,” Ellis said of his gold medal in Turkey. “I fought my game, using my experience, and I was more confident. I knew from the jump that I was going to win the Worlds. She (Ferreira) is my rival, and we knew we would be there at the end. I boxed and moved, she likes to put you in the ropes and handle you. When you box and move, she has problems because she has flat feet, then she is frustrated. Everyone knew which I had won because I had landed more shots.

“The Worlds was an opportunity to see who is in our division. I knew it would be me and her. Unless something shocking happens, it will be me and her for the Olympic gold medal in Paris .

Ellis has been fighting for 16 years and she could have turned professional after her disappointing end in Tokyo. She figured her resume would be even more impressive in 4 years, especially if she wears an Olympic gold medal, and the time to turn pro was not the right time for her.

“Honestly, after the Olympics, I made the decision to stay an amateur, because I’m going to get that gold medal in Paris,” Ellis added. “Today female boxers make as much money as pros. Instead of going pro and fighting a few times a year, I figured 4 more years as an amateur, and I’ll have a better CV to jump in the pros. This is going to change my life. I will need a good manager when I turn pro and I will probably move to California, where a lot of the best boxers are. I can’t wait to go to Paris! I I’ve never been. If we don’t see enough there, I’ll stay a few more days to enjoy Paris.

A resident of the boxing capital of the world, Las Vegas, Gonzales, 26, is the only American to win gold medals at last year’s World Championships and the 2022 AMBC Elite Tournament in Ecuador. He edged Aliaksei Alfiorau (Bulgaria), 3-2, at the World Championships, 4-1 over Isais Ribeiro (Brazil) at AMBC Elite.

“It was (winning a gold medal) really awesome because I’ve been through a lot with COVID and didn’t compete in the Olympics (2020),” Gonzales commented. “I went to World Championships to compete, experience Worlds, and then turn professional. I never thought I would win and I just wanted to put it on my CV. Winning it all was a dream come true. Something in my guts told me, let there be no regrets if I went pro.

“The main reason I started boxing was to be an Olympian. I thought to myself that if I won the Worlds, I could do it in the Olympics. I’m more confident after these championships and I learned how to do the job. If I can work hard, I can do it; I know what to do. I’ve now fought under the bright lights and done the job. When I turn pro, I’ll be 28, but I won’t need a lot of fights I think I can start 8 or 10 round fights and aim for a title early I’m fighting pros now A lot of overseas fighters especially in Europe, are already pros.

Gonzales is a grinder who has overcome several setbacks that would have derailed other boxers who would have already turned pro.

“The first time (he could have been an Olympian),” Gonzales remarked, “I wasn’t focused enough or as focused as I am now or in 2020. I was only 19. The second time (Tokyo 2020) I won the Olympic trials but didn’t have enough international points and qualifying was canceled due to COVID We couldn’t leave the country to compete as the United States was in a red zone. And my dad made me take lessons (instead of going to other tournaments to earn points). He motivated me for the world championships by saying: “When you lose, what Is the excuse? It took me a while to understand, I took it personally and wondered why he was saying that to me. But it was like a metaphor… I understood that he was really saying that he didn’t there were no excuses.

“Right now I’m training for the evaluation camp to be part of the USA team in 2023. If I can win the Worlds (2022) and the Pan American Games, maybe a few more international matches, I will have enough points to qualify for the Olympic Games (2024 in Paris). Everyone is good at this level, and I have a target on me because I am number 1. Now I have to stay number 1.”

The easy move for any of these gifted boxers would have been to turn pro, grab a signing bonus and fight cans of tomatoes for a few years to set their records.

Harvey, Ellis and Gonzales, however, took advantage of the perks offered by USA Boxing, accepting the challenge to stay in Olympic-style boxing, enjoying battling opponents around the world against their diverse styles, and eventually jewelry purchases. in Paris for gold. .

Naomi C. Amerson