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Oshae Jones sets sights on inaugural women’s welterweight gold at 2020 Olympics

Photo from Team USA
09
Aug

In the moments following her greatest achievement, the cheers from the crowd in Peru were drowned out by boos. Oshae Jones couldn’t process it at the moment, but she wouldn’t allow it to spoil her victory in the Pan American Games welterweight gold medal match.

“In the beginning it was a good vibe, everything was like perfect,” said the 21-year-old Jones, who defeated Canada’s Myriam Da Silva by 30-27 scores on four cards and 29-28 on the fifth to win her country’s lone boxing gold in 2019.

“I found out that Canada had family and more people there than we did. Team USA just stuck together.”

It was a historic moment, the first time a gold medal was awarded in the women’s 152-pound division, which will debut as an expansion from three to five women’s weight classes (also adding featherweight to the initial flyweight, lightweight and middleweight) for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Now she returns home to Toledo, Ohio a local woman done well, with a proclamation from his city set for Tuesday, August 13th and 1:30 p.m. It’s an amazing honor that came after she was able to sidestep many of the stumbling blocks that come with growing up in her city.

Her home gym, Soul City Boxing Club, was founded by her father Otha Jones Jr. and older brother Rhoshawn Jones. It sits in the middle of one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods, a place for young people to find something productive where they otherwise may not have.

“I would say boxing saved my life. If it wasn’t for boxing I honestly wouldn’t know what I would be doing. I probably would have fell into the trap of my city like drugs, violence and gang banging,” said Jones.

Now she spends most of her time at her other gym, the Olympic boxing training center in Colorado Springs, Col., far away from her home back east. She’s been a resident there since joining the USA Boxing squad at age 18, and spends 75% of her time there, returning home every few months for a handful of days before going back to Colorado for a three-a-day training schedule with head coach Billy Walsh and assistant trainer Kay Koroma.

“The only way I wind down is getting my nails done. It’s just training, constantly training,” said Jones. Of all the places she has competed, she says Honduras was her favorite because of the reception they gave for the American athletes.

Jones first picked up the sport at age 14, following her younger brother, the 3-0 (1 knockout) junior lightweight prospect Otha Jones III, and her older brother into boxing after they switched over from wrestling. Roshawn had been a state wrestling champion in Ohio, but an injury sustained by him made his siblings rethink their sport of choice.

“We were like, ‘woah. Maybe this sport is not smart, maybe we should go somewhere else,’” said Jones, laughing as she sees the irony in moving to a sport with its own set of dangers.

“I used to want to be a girlie girl, I used to be a cheerleader, I used to run track. My dad was like, ‘if you want to box and you want to win and be champion, you have to focus on this and only this.’ And that’s when I started taking it seriously.”

At first, Jones saw her little brother – who is two years younger at 19 – as her main competition, wanting to outshine him. That sibling rivalry has subsided, and she now views him as a motivating force in another way.

“I would say it was competition back in the days, but now we’re so busy apart. I’m at the Olympic training center, he’s always busy training for fights, we don’t even have time for competition. There’s just so much love in the room when we see each other now,” said Jones.

“He’s coming up and he’s making our name known. He’s letting everybody know that the Joneses aren’t lucky; we’re actually talented and good boxers period.”

Making history in Peru was one milestone, but it’s not the only one she has planned for her amateur career. 

“I’m really excited because I know I can also break another record like I just did at the Pan Am Games, becoming the first welterweight to win gold. I want to be the first welterweight to win Olympic gold also,” said Jones.

She says she’s well acquainted with the competition she’ll face around the world since many of the teams come to Colorado to have camps.

“Sometimes we get to spar. I experienced a lot like China, Great Britain, Russia, Australia. I pretty much know my competition,” said Jones. Seeing that diverse variety of fighters has given her a worldly outlook on the sport, but she says it’s difficult to summarize her approach in the ring.

“I feel I can adjust to anything or anybody, I don’t have a style, I can do whatever,” said Jones. 

“If I have a person coming up to me wanting action, I’m gonna make them come to me, turn them, sidestep them and I’m gonna work my jab. I’m gonna make them look like a bull coming in to me.”

After the Olympics, Jones plans to join her brother in the pros, continuing the trend of Olympians like Claressa Shields and Katie Taylor boosting the competition.

With her experience, Jones expects to win some gold in the pro ranks as well.

“I think most of the female fighters don’t even have an amateur record. I think most just go pro and go from there. I think there’s a few talented ones but there are a few females that are just in the way. I’ll be happy to make my mark in the pros also, I can’t wait,” said Jones.

Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected]

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