JAJAIRA GONZALEZ: WITH NEW LIFE AT 60 KG., I’M GIVING IT MY ALL FOR PARIS
by BY AS TOLD TO STEVE DRUMWRIGHT BY JAJAIRA GONZALEZ
I couldn’t be more excited and focused on what is in my immediate future with USA Boxing. Currently, I am training in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the rest of my teammates as we get ready for the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, from Oct. 20-Nov. 5.
The Pan Am Games are the first of what I hope are two major competitions in the next year. Next I hope to qualify to represent Team USA at the Olympic Games Paris 2024. I can do that in Chile, but if I don’t I have another chance through the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, which are taking place Dec. 2-9 in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Those are the main priorities in my life at the moment. I have cut out any distractions to focus on not only myself, but on my career. That hasn’t always been the case as sometimes I took things for granted or let other things distract me from what I should be doing. But now at age 26, I have learned from those events and know that I am the only person who has control over me and my mindset.
My focus on these upcoming events has me very excited. From both a physical and mental standpoint, I feel good, I feel strong. I’m in super-great shape, and I feel like the only person who will be able to beat me is me.
But I also feel fortunate for this opportunity. I was the No. 2 boxer at 57 kg. and was asked by USA Boxing to move up to 60 kg. when a teammate was unable to participate. Out of everyone they had seen at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, they thought I had the potential to move up and represent my country. I did have to compete against another boxer, and I won and a few days later was offered the spot at 60. I’m just so supergrateful and blessed that an opportunity like this presented itself. That is another reason why I’ve been going so hard, because I feel like I was given a second chance and I can’t mess this up. I’ve got to give it my all.
Cutting out any other distractions hasn’t been too hard for me because I am a private person. I like to chill at home and listen to music — from rap to Mexican, depending on my mood — read books, sleep or just be with my dog, "Bam," a 5-year-old Yorkie. I take him anywhere I can. He is very sweet and kind of like a human. He is the type of dog to lay on a pillow on his side of the bed. But sometimes I have to leave him at home and mom definitely spoils him. I came home to Montclair, California, from a trip one time and it was dinner time and my dog was sitting in his own chair at the dinner table!
Bam has been with me through a lot of struggles. It started out with where I was always winning. Whenever I would go to a tournament, everybody was like, “Oh, she’s gonna sweep this. This is gonna be easy.” And I would dominate. But then I went to nationals in 2018. I think I got a little big-headed. I was still living in Virginia with my boyfriend at the time and hardly coming home to California to see my family and train. The relationship was definitely rocky.
I only trained for two weeks instead of two months for an important tournament like nationals, so I struggled to make weight. I was eating less and exercising more, so my body was tired. Plus, my mental health wasn’t there as I struggled with some issues, so I was not fully focused on what was more important, which was my career.
I went to nationals, and my first fight was against a girl I had TKO’d three times. And I lost. I wasn’t even second, so there was no opportunity to be on the national team. I just really felt like the world was against me at the time. I wasn’t talking with some members of my family. I knew I had to take a break. It was only supposed to be for a year, but then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, so it turned out to be a longer break than what I had imagined. It turned out to be about a four-year break from competitive boxing.
During this time, since I wasn’t boxing or really training, I gained 35 pounds and was kind of depressed. I genuinely wasn’t happy and just wasn’t mentally there. But then in 2021, I started to get back into it. I was going to therapy and talking to friends about what was going on. I moved back to California with my parents and started training again. The support from my family played a huge role, from my father training me and pushing me to my limits, to my mother making me special low-calorie meals and the support and belief in me from my younger brother, Jonjairo.
I learned a lot about myself during that time. I’m very loyal, so the people that I love, I always put other people before myself. Over time, though, I just really learned that I gotta put myself first this time. Once I did that, everything just kind of fell into place.
In 2016, I was disappointed to not go to the Olympic Games Rio 2016. I felt like I should have had that spot, but sometimes things don’t work out. So that is why I am more focused now. My mental health is in a much better place. Some of my relationships have gotten better; others haven’t, and I have accepted that. In boxing, the mental part of the sport is very important. Boxing is still an individual sport. But that is one of the best things about boxing — other than hitting someone. It makes me go harder when I see an opponent bleeding.
In order to get to Paris, these next few months are big. I just have to stay consistent, disciplined and focused with everything I’ve been doing, like my therapy, my journaling, my training and allowing my body to recover as well because that plays a big part. I can’t wait to continue this journey.