Pan-Am Games Recap: Five American Boxers Punch Their Ticket to The 2024 Olympics
The 2023 Pan American Games concluded this past weekend in Santiago, Chile. The tournament is part of the qualification process for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The boxers who advanced to the final round of the tournament automatically qualify for the 2024 games, and we had five American boxers accomplish that impressive feat this past week.
Last Wednesday, Jajaira Gonzalez (Montclair, Texas) was the first member of Team USA to become a 2024 Olympian. She clinched her spot when she defeated Camilo Pineiro Muino (Uruguay) by a 5-0 unanimous decision in the 60kg weight division. Her relentless aggression and combination work had Muino uncomfortable and on the back foot for the majority of the first two rounds. She boxed off the back foot and used more lateral movement in the final round, showing another dimension to her game and having just as much success as she did as a pressure fighter. Gonzalez took a three-year hiatus from the sport to take care of her mental health and is boxing better than ever ahead of the biggest competition of her life. Many people first became familiar with her as the sister of multi-time title challenger Joet Gonzalez, but Jajaira has without a doubt made a name for herself and is ready to do big things next summer in Paris.
The next American to secure a spot in the Olympics was Jahmal Harvey (Oxon Hill, Maryland). He beat Gabriel Oliveira (Brazil) in the 57kg semis and Ivan Horta Rodriguez Del Rey (Cuba) in the final round both by a 5-0 unanimous decision and became the first American to claim a gold medal at the Pan-Am games since Antonio Vargas in 2015. Harvey is a switch-hitter who many believe has a great chance to become the first American male to win an Olympic gold medal since Andre Ward in 2004. In both contests, Harvey showed why he is such a highly regarded talent. For Harvey, it all starts with a piston-like jab that he can fire out of either stance. He also possesses a strong backhand that follows the jab, as well as a sharp counter lead hook that can catch his opponents coming in. He is a fantastic amateur, and I suspect that Harvey can have similar success in the professionals due to his ability to adapt and the number of tools that he can fall back on.
Jennifer Lonzao (Laredo, Texas) became the third Team USA boxer to become a 2024 Olympian. She got the better of Mckenzie Wright (Canada) via a 5-0 unanimous decision in the semifinals of the 50kg division to clinch her Olympic berth. Lozano, a southpaw, is at her best when she can close the distance on her opponents, use angles, and let her fast hands fly. It took her about halfway through the first round to figure out Wright, who was noticeably taller. Lozano had much quicker feet, and once she got in rhythm there was no slowing her down. “La Traviesa” (the troublemaker), has burst onto the international scene and is certainly one to watch at the 2024 Olympic games.
Cleveland has a rich history of success in amateur boxing, and Morelle McCane continues that tradition. She makes it now five straight Olympics that have featured a boxer from Cleveland, following in the footsteps of Raynell Williams (2008), Terrell Gausha (2012), Charles Conwell (2016), and Delante “Tiger” Johnson (2020). The 2020 Olympic alternate boosted Team USA’s record to 2-0 over Canada in the semis by winning a 5-0 unanimous decision over Charlie Cavanagh and wound up being awarded a silver medal in the 66kg division. “Mo” had one of the most impressive performances of the entire tournament in the quarterfinals against Nicole Vega Moya (Costa Rica). She landed numerous head-snapping punches, forcing two standing counts before the contest was stopped in the opening round. McCane picks her shots like a professional and has the power to affect anyone that she hits with a flush shot.
The final American to solidify himself as a 2024 Olympian is superheavyweight Joshua Edwards (Houston, Texas). His Olympic dream became a reality when he won a 5-0 unanimous decision over Fernando Arzola Lopez (Cuba), and via walkover, he defeated Abner Teixeira Da Silva (Brazil) to join Harvey as a 2024 Pan-Am gold medal winner. Beating a Cuban is always something to be proud of in the Amateurs. Lopez was well-schooled, but Edwards showed that he has a degree in the sweet science also. What impressed me most about him was his ability to use feints as a super heavyweight to set up his combinations and box out of both the orthodox and southpaw stances. Everyone loves to watch the “big guys” in boxing. Edwards fits the mold of being both entertaining and skilled and has a bright future ahead of him in both the Olympics and the professional ranks.
Several other stellar American boxers competed at the Pan-American Games. Roscoe Hill (Springs, Texas) received a bronze medal at the games in the 51kg weight division to give Team USA six medalists. With two gold, silver, and bronze medalists, Team USA finished behind only Brazil in total points amongst the 14 competing nations. Every fighter that competed deserves mention because they all have sacrificed more than any of us can even imagine to get to this point and they all fought their heart out. Emilio Garcia (Laredo, Texas), Omari Jones (Orlando, Florida), Jamar Talley (Camden, New Jersey), Robby Gonzales (Las Vegas, Nevada), Yoseline Perez (Houston, Texas), Alyssa Mendoza (Caldwell, Idaho), and 2020 Olympian Naomi Graham (Fayetteville, North Carolina) all made us American boxing fans proud and still have chances to qualify for the 2024 Paris field. They were all either matched tough early or seemed to be on the wrong end of some debatable decisions and I would not count any of them out to not only qualify for the games but to make a run and potentially medal.