Amateur boxing champion Jahmal Harvey is winning titles at the world level and could be the next great U.S. boxer coming through the ranks.
USA Boxing went through a bit of a lull in the last two decades, but young, talented boxers like Jahmal Harvey are leading the U.S. back to amateur boxing glory.
In USA amateur boxing history, there have only been 17 fighters to win gold at the AIBA World Championships, and Harvey is one of them.
Harvey is only 19 years old but could be the U.S. best chance at a gold medal at the 2024 Olympic games in Paris, France. You might think that a boxing prodigy like Harvey must have started boxing at five years old to be this good, but he didn’t pick up the sport until his teens.
Harvey’s first love was football, but the featherweight boxer lacked the size for longevity on the gridiron. His football coach was also a respected boxing trainer in the Maryland area.
“I started boxing in the eighth grade,” Harvey said to FanSided. “I was playing football, and I was boxing at the same time because going into high school, I know I didn’t have the height, weight. You know, I knew I had the speed and stuff, but I wasn’t really growing, so my football coach, who also was started his own gym, told me to come up to the gym, and I started boxing, and I just fell in love with it.”
Darrell Davis trained Harvey out of the football team’s equipment room. There wasn’t much in it except for a heavy bag and a fighter with a lot of natural talent.
“Our first boxing gym when he first opened it, it was the old football equipment room,” Harvey said. “So it literally had one bag and hard floor. That’s all we had.”
It was a simple beginning for Harvey, but he learned in leaps and bounds. It didn’t take Davis long to realize that he had something extraordinary in the eighth-grade Harvey.
Watch Jahmal Harvey compete for another amateur title at the 2022 AMBC Elite Championships
“I’m doing way better than the guys that first started with me,” Harvey said. “So then he took me to a gym to spar a national champion. And I did good. So once he did that, he was just telling me like, you know, that guy is supposed to be real good, to me and my dad, and I’m like, for real? Then I must really be nice.”
That’s an understatement. Harvey competed for the first time at 13 years old. One year later, he was a national champion for the first time.
Since then, Harvey’s collection of amateur titles has grown, but his most significant achievement was winning gold at the 2021 AIBA World Championships. According to USA Boxing, he and teammate Rahim Gonzalez were the first Americans to win gold medals since Rau’shee Warren and Demetrius Andrade in 2007.
When watching Harvey in action, his hand speed, quickness, and instinct set him apart from other fighters. Maybe that’s because Harvey entered boxing with a blank slate.
Harvey didn’t watch boxing before he took up the sport.
“It was it was all new,” Harvey said. “The only boxers I could say I really, the current boxers that I really knew was Floyd and Pacquiao. That was it.”
Harvey didn’t start watching other boxers until recently. His personal favorite is WBO welterweight champion, Terence Crawford.
Like Crawford, Harvey likes to switch stances throughout his fights and does so smoothly. Many also compare Harvey to boxing Hall-of-Famer Aaron Pryor.
“I got a lot that I fight like Aaron Pryor because when I like fight someone I hurt him or hit him with a big shot, I jumped on him,” Harvey said. “So a lot of people told me I felt like him.”
Crawford and Pryor are great fighters to be compared to. So far, Harvey is giving those sentiments validity.
He’s currently competing at the 2022 AMBC Elite Championships. Harvey won his first-round bout. You can watch him and others via the USA Boxing webpage through April 1.
If you’re wondering why Harvey hasn’t turned professional, he still has one goal left to attain–winning Olympic gold.
“We should have a lot of gold medals coming up in this 2024 Olympics, but it will mean a lot because this is one I’ve been working hard for,” Harvey said. “I could have went pro this year, last year. I could have did that, but I’m waiting it out because I’m trying to have tunnel vision to get that Olympic gold medal. That’s my dream, so it will mean a lot to me.”
Harvey has big dreams, but they are within his grasp. He’s proving to be a special fighter with the potential to be the next great one.