Boxing NewsJajaira Gonzalez

Jajaira Gonzalez's Boxing Journey: The Tale of Two Halves

by Luke Santangelo

In the city of Glendora, Calif., a young girl named Jajaira Gonzalez would begin her boxing career at a young age. Her father forcing her to box and training her to start her career would end up giving Team USA one of their fiercest boxers on the team. However, the road to Paris for Gonzalez wasn’t straight; she took on many obstacles and had to fight through adversity on multiple occasions.

 

The 27-year-old Olympian boxing career is a tale of two halves. Gonzalez joined Team USA after dominating nearly every competition in which she participated. She is grateful her father was her coach growing up because he pushed her more than a normal coach because he knew her potential.

 

She would take the world by storm, winning a Junior World Championship, two Youth World Championships, and the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, to name a few of her Junior and Youth career accolades. She would win 10 medals in a five-year stretch, nine of them gold, etching her name as one of Team USA’s most anticipated female boxers at the time.

Gonzalez was dominant, and the sport of boxing came easily to her. She loved to get in the ring and compete.

 

“I am grateful my dad was my coach because, as a father, he pushed me further than a normal coach would,” Gonzalez stated.  “And because of that, the early stages of boxing were easy to me. There was more competition internationally, as it was hard to get fights in the beginning because not a lot of girls were fighting, but I was still getting some TKOs. My dad pushed me, and then when it would come to training with Team USA, it was easier for me to push myself more and more because I knew what I was capable of.”

 

She was on pace to be a dominant force in the ring and likely a Team USA staple. However, looking at Gonzalez’s career, you will notice a big gap.


In 2018, the female youth boxing prodigy decided to take a three-year break from boxing and focus on her mental health.

 

“I developed anxiety in 2017, and it was mentally draining,” Gonzalez stated on her mental health break. “At the time, I wasn’t mentally strong, and it affected my motivation to train or do anything. All I wanted to do was lay down.”

 

Gonzalez explained that she planned to take only a year off from boxing and put all her strength in her mental health that year. However, COVID-19 struck the United States, and she had to find an alternative. She would go on to gain roughly 30 pounds and work a regular job.

 

She saw her lifestyle completely switch, and she was now working a regular job and didn’t know what to do. Well, one day, it was a regular day for her, and she was working her job and saw USA Boxing posted someone on Instagram winning a medal in Spain. It brought anger to her eyes, and she realized her heart and passion belonged in the ring, not an everyday eight-to-five life.

“I was working one time, and I saw USA Boxing post they were at a tournament in Spain,” Gonzalez explains her motivation back to the ring. “I just sat and thought to myself, what am I doing working a regular job? I should be traveling the world and doing what I love.”
Jajaira Gonzalez

So, Gonzalez got back in the ring and was more determined more now than before. She fought through the most challenging adversity of her life and was determined to return to where she was. She was hungrier than ever and was ready to stand at the top of a podium again.

 

It didn’t take long for the multi-time National Champion to get back in the swing of things in the ring. She claimed she was even better because she was now more mature and physically and mentally stronger.

 

She feels her defense improved after her break, and she understands the importance of slipping punches, and the overall game of the sport comes to her easier now. Gonzalez also emphasized that the biggest takeaway after her break was having fun and enjoying the sport. She said it made her have more fun with it, but also thinks it made her a better boxer as well.

 

“I feel you should have a balance,” stated Gonzalez. “Before my break, it was just boxing, boxing, boxing. I was worried I wasn’t able to do some things because my life was supposed to be just boxing. No, you must have fun in and out of the ring and enjoy your life.”

 

When training or competing, you will see Gonzalez smiling, dancing, and enjoying the sport of boxing as she has grown to appreciate the sport every day. However, when it is time to compete and get serious or train, she will flip that switch and strike fear into her opponent’s eyes.

 

Gonzalez, determined to make it to Paris for the 2024 Olympics, was on the path to being selected at 57 kg, however, she fell short in the 2023 team selection process. Later in 2023, the 60 kg team spot was vacated, and Jajaira was invited to compete for that spot during the Athlete Replacement Selection Camp.

 

Gonzalez’s left it all in the ring during the camp and showed why she deserved the spot and feels being at 60 kg has made her boxing even better than it was before.

 

Gonzalez would take her skills to the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games and earn her spot in this summer’s Olympic Games. After all her trials and tribulations, her patience and adversity paid off. She has 13 international medals, the most important being her bronze which punched her ticket to Paris. The boxer has two incredible careers, a tale of two halves. In the first half, she was dominant and fearless. In the second half, she stands on business and goes for gold.

(Photo by Getty Images)

With the second half of her career just starting, her most important tournament is months away: the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, ten years after standing on top of the podium at the Youth Olympic Games.

 

“I want gold,” a determined Gonzalez said on her Paris goals. “I want it to be clear. I don’t want close fights. I want to win unanimously and get that gold medal.”  

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