Return to Triumph: Jajaira Gonzalez on the Road to Paris 2024

Return to Triumph: Jajaira Gonzalez on the Road to Paris 2024

Decorated boxer Jajaira Gonzalez is gearing up to represent Team USA Boxing at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. In our interview with her ahead of the games this July, Gonzalez discussed her career — including a four-year break from the sport — critical moments that shaped her career, and her advice for young boxers.

Her journey in the boxing world to the world stage is a testament to her resilience and extraordinary skill.

From Reluctant Beginner to National Champion

Jajaira Gonzalez, a 27-year-old from Glendora, California, began boxing at the age of 8 when her father brought her to the gym with her brothers. But it was anything but a passion from the start.

“I hated boxing when I first started, I remember doing whatever I could to get out of going to the gym.”

The turning point came around 10 or 11, when she truly began to enjoy the sport as more girls her age were available to compete against.

“Once I started to get more competition, I was dominating, getting TKOs. It was easy for me, something that was very natural.”

Family Support and Early Challenges

Her family’s unwavering support also played a crucial role in her journey, especially in a sport as mentally challenging as boxing. She was especially driven by the encouragement of her father and coach, Jose Gonzalez.

Jajaira Gonzalez training with her father and coach, Jose Gonzalez.
Jajaira Gonzalez training with her father and coach, Jose Gonzalez (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“Having my dad as my coach is such a blessing because no one will push me as hard as he does.”

Breaking through Barriers

Gonzalez’s career milestones began as early as 16 when she made it onto Team USA. Her first big victory came in 2013 at the Bulgaria World Tournament.

“Winning that tournament was a big deal for me. It showed me that I could compete on an international level.”

Facing Adversity and the 2015 Olympic Trials

The 2015 Olympic Trials were a pivotal moment in Gonzalez’s career. At age 18, she faced a loss in the final match, determined by a split decision call.

“I was the youngest in my weight class, so maybe they thought I needed more experience. I lost in a split decision, which was really close. People were coming up to me saying, ‘That was BS, you should have won that fight.’”

The experience left her disillusioned and questioning the fairness of the sport. “Boxing is very political,” Gonzalez tells us. “There’s a lot of subjectivity, especially regarding a split decision. I lost a bit of love for boxing after that incident.”

Stepping Away

By the end of 2018, Gonzalez decided to take a break from boxing to prioritize her mental health amid family issues and a toxic relationship. Reflecting on her decision, she says:

“I was in a really bad stage of my life … Everything outside of boxing weighed heavily on me, so when I was in the gym, I was not focused.”

During this hiatus, Gonzalez learned the importance of balance. “I was only focused on boxing,” she stated. “Now, having a balance is a priority for me … I can train just as hard and still enjoy my life.”

Triumphant Return and Recent Successes

In 2021, having had her break extended by the pandemic, Gonzalez returned to the ring with renewed focus and determination. She marked her comeback by winning the USA Boxing Elite National Championships the same year.

“I feel like God gave me a second chance, and not many people get that.”

She also clinched a bronze medal at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, and secured her spot in the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Jajaira Gonzalez holding her bronze medal at the 2023 Pan American Games.
Jajaira Gonzalez (second from right) on the winning podium at the 2023 Pan American Games (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

After her four-year hiatus, Gonzalez’s recent successes are remarkable, but also a huge testament to her talent and work ethic.

Training With Team USA and the Jake Paul Factor

Now laser-focused on winning Gold in Paris she’s training at the Colorado Springs Team USA gym. She describes the training environment as supportive and motivating, and has strong bonds with teammates like Jennifer Lozano and Morelle McCane.

“It makes being away from home easier. We push each other to work harder but have fun with it too.”

Complementing this camaraderie is Jake Paul, the controversial YouTuber-turned-professional-boxer, who has been training in the gym with the team at the Colorado Springs gym, and will join the Team USA in Paris.

On Paul, Gonzalez has nothing but good things to say.

“Jake Paul has been training hard with us. He’s helped us get more support and exposure for women’s boxing by using his platform to bring attention to our sport.”

Role Models and Women in Boxing

The addition of women’s boxing to the Olympics in 2012 was a game-changer for Gonzalez.

“I didn’t know women’s boxing had been added until I started seeing commercials,” she says. “I was just like, ‘I want to be like that.’ That was my new goal.”

Gonzalez also says she’s heartened by this increased interest in women’s sports.

“I now see a lot of young girls at the boxing gym. It’s amazing to see. We, as Olympians, helped influence that.”

She also takes her position as a role model for female boxers very seriously, since she didn’t have one as a kid. She says, “I want to be that person [young girls] can look up to and say, ‘I want to be like her.’”

Advice for Young Boxers

To young women aspiring to follow in her footsteps, Gonzalez offers heartfelt advice.

“Really put yourself first, love yourself first, and work hard. Ignore all the noise on the outside. Stay focused and do it for you. Hard work beats talent. Hard work is always going to get you there.”

These are lessons she carries with her to this day.

Looking Ahead — Paris 2024 and Beyond

With her focus on Paris, Gonzalez’s goals are clear in her mind — unanimous victories and a gold medal.

“I can’t leave it to a split decision like in 2015. I have to be sure I am in there dominating.”

Beyond Paris, she will weigh the possibility of staying amateur for the Los Angeles 2028 against possibly going professional. “My end goal is to really make sure I am financially stable, and I’ve made my mark in the sport as one of the greats,” she shares. She also dreams of inspiring younger generations and potentially opening her own gym.

Control the Controllable

From reluctant beginnings to national championships, Jaijaira Gonzalez has emerged as a dominant force in women’s boxing.

Guided by the advice to “control the controllable,” Gonzalez is focused on preparing for Paris. As she readies herself to compete, her presence on the world stage will continue to pave the way for burgeoning young boxers tuning in this summer.

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Phil Hourguettes is a sports fan and content creator. He’s originally from New Orleans and currently lives in New York City. He is a huge New Orleans Saints fan and big-time sports bettor. Phil is also an avid poker player and poker content creator.

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