Team USA Ready to Rock the 2023 Pan American Games
The 2023 Pan American Games officially kicked off today from Santiago, Chile. There are thirteen boxers, six female and seven male, that are representing the United States in the games and hoping to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview one of the coaches of the US National Team, Christine Lopez, on Tuesday, which I will attach at the bottom of this article.
Yesterday was the official draw for the tournament, where each American boxer found out who they would be opposite of in the opening round and which days they would be competing. The first American to compete will be 23-year-old Jamar Talley (Camden, New Jersey), who will be in action tomorrow morning in the 92kg (203lb) male division. He is matched up tough against two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Julio César De La Cruz of Cuba, but a win would make him the favorite to win the tournament and be a major statement. Talley won gold at the AMBC Elite Championships and the 2023 Gee Bee Invitational Tournament, as well as placing third in the 2023 Strandja International Tournament and fifth at the 2021 World Championships.
On Saturday we will see three more Americans competing in their first bout of the games. 28-year-old Roscoe Hill (Springs, Texas) will be opposite Cuban Alejandro Claro Fiz in the 51kg (112lb) male division in the morning portion of the schedule. Hill came up boxing in George Foreman’s gym and was even baptized by the former Olympic Gold Medalist and Heavyweight World Champion. He won a silver medal at the 2021 Elite World Championships and gold at the 2022 AMBC Elite Championships.
The afternoon flight will feature 20-year-old Jennifer Lozano (Laredo, Texas), who will be up against Susan Meylin Aguas Chala of Ecuador in the 50kg (110lb) female division. She won a gold medal at the 2022 USA Elite National Championships and secured bronze at both the 2022 USA Boxing International Invitational and the 2023 Gee Bee International Tournament.
A few bouts later, the highly decorated 27-year-old Rahim “Robby” Gonzales (Las Vegas, Nevada) will square off with Dominican Cristian Javier Pinales in the 80kg (176lb) male division. Gonzales has won gold medals at numerous international competitions including the 2021 Elite World Championships and the 2022 and 2023 Continental Championships. He was victorious at the 2020 Olympic Trials, but due to covid was unable to qualify for the games and is hoping to earn a spot for the 2024 tournament.
On Sunday we will see three more Americans looking to advance to the second round. The morning session will see the youngest member of the team, 19-year-old Yoseline Perez (Houston, Texas) fight against 2020 Olympian Yeni Marcela Arias Castaneda from Colombia in the 54kg (119lb) women’s division. Perez is thirteen years younger than her counterpart and is not as experienced at the international level, but she is regarded as a prodigy and has a great chance at making a name for herself in this tournament. She has won gold medals at both the 2022 Youth Championships and 2022 USA Boxing Elite National Qualifier in addition to securing a bronze medal in the 2022 USA Boxing Elite National Championships. She is looking to become the third women from Houston to become an Olympian after Marlen Esparza and Virginia Fuchs.
20-year-old Omari Jones (Orlando, Florida) will conclude the morning flight for Team USA against Angel Gabriel Llanos Perez of Puerto Rico in the 71kg (157lb) male division. Jones has scored gold at both the Gee Bee International Tournament and Czech Republic Grand Prix already this year and made a name for himself when he secured a silver medal at the 2021 Elite World Championships, in what was his first-ever international tournament.
The last bout featuring an American fighter on Sunday is during the afternoon session and pins 26-year-old Jajaira Gonzalez (Montclair, California) against Canadian Garinder Takhar in the 60kg (132lb) female division. Gonzalez returned to the sport after a brief break in 2021 and is prime and ready to make a run in this tournament. The multi-time national champion won gold at the 2021 Elite National Championships in her return and followed that up with winning gold at the AMBC Elite Championships.
The last member of Team USA to compete in the opening round is 20-year-old Alyssa Mendoza (Caldwell, Idaho) who fights Monday. Like Gonzalez, she will be in a USA vs Canada matchup and opposite of Marie-Bathoul Al-Ahmadieh in the 57kg (126lb) female division. The 2022 gold medalist in the USA Boxing Elite National Championships showed she more than belonged in her first year of international competition this year, picking up a silver medal in the Czech Republic Grand Prix and scoring bronze in the Gee Bee International Tournament and Strandja International Tournament.
There are also five American boxers who received byes to the second round of the tournament. 20-year-old Jahmal Harvey (Oxon Hill, Maryland) competes in the 57kg (126lb) male division and is already set to face 2020 Olympian Keevin Allicock of Guyana. By winning a gold medal at the 2021 Elite World Championships, Harvey became the first American male to win an elite world title in over a decade. Since then, the multi-time national champion has won a gold medal at the 2023 Czech Grand Prix and a silver at the AMBC Elite Championships.
20-year-old Emilio Garcia (Laredo, Texas) also received a bye to the second round and will be up against Jesus Nazaret Cova Romero of Venezuela in the 63.5kg (140lb) male division. Garcia is looking to build off of a successful 2023 where he won gold at the Gee Bee International Tournament and bronze at the Strandja International Tournament.
23-year-old Joshua Edwards (Houston, Texas) competes in the 92+kg (203+lb) male division and will square off against the winner of Miguel Angel Veliz Correa of Chile and Gerlon Gilmar Congo Chala of Ecuador. Edwards won gold at the USA Boxing Elite National Championships and brought home bronze at both the 2022 AMBC Elite Championships and the 2023 Czech Grand Prix.
2020 US Olympic Alternate Morelle McCane (Cleveland, Ohio) is competing in a new weight class this time around and won’t be boxing until the second round of the tournament. The 28-year-old is now in the 66kg (146lb) female division and will match up with Nicole de los Angeles Vega Moya of Costa Rica. The 2023 Gee Bee Invitational winner and 2023 Czech Grand Prix runner up is hoping to become the fifth straight boxer from Cleveland to quality for the Olympic Games.
The final member of Team USA for the Pan American Games is the only boxer on the roster with Olympic experience. 34-year-old Naomi Graham (Fayetteville, North Carolina) already made history by being the first active female military member to represent the United States in the Olympics and is attempting to become the first American boxer, male or female, to win back-to-back Pan American Games gold medals. She competes in the 75kg (165lb) female division and will be opposite the winner of Yakelin Estornell Elizastigue of Cuba and Citlalli Vanessa Ortiz of Mexico.
The entire team is full of confidence and I am truly excited to see them all perform and earn their spot in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. As stated earlier here is the full interview that myself and fellow ITR Boxing member Dakota did with Coach Christine Lopez, where she previews the games and speaks on the upward trajectory of the entire US Amateur boxing program and the vibe of the team heading into competition.