This week is the USA Boxing's 2022 Summer Festival which hosts the Junior Olympics, the biggest event for fighters between the age of 15-16-years-old. Now for the elite, you will notice the consensus two best fighters in the nation, light heavyweight Rahim Gonzales and featherweight Jahmal Harvey are not fighting as those who won at the previous tournament do not have to compete to maintain their spot on Team USA. This is the exact reason one of my other favorite amateurs, Steven Navarro, isn't at this tournament.
That being said, this is a great opportunity to observe talent, as a slew of fighters is currently growing from tournament to tournament. For more information, visit USABoxing.org
Those Who Stand Above The Rest
Benjamin Johnson, 139 youth – Very few youth fighters make this list, but Johnson has the potential to be one of the faces of American boxing. His division is consistently shallow after he enters, and he is stopping the best fighters in the nation at national tournaments. When Johnson turns pro, it will be exciting.
Ryan Williams, 112 Elite – Ryan Williams is one of the best lower-weight fighters I have seen since Steven Navarro, and Williams seemingly wins any tournament he enters. As we near the Olympic Trials for 2024, the story should be the collision course Williams and Navarro are on for the 2024 Olympic spot. Williams, of Ohio, is a well-schooled boxer who stood out amongst his peers despite being in a lower weight class.
Jordan Roach, 119 Elite – Think of the younger Roach brother as an American version of Galal Yafai, the Olympic Gold medal winner. A fierce puncher at the lower weights.
Nathan Lugo, 175 elite – A big-puncher who will be a very fun pro and has a committed father in Mike Lugo, who has created a tremendous boxing team willing to travel and win national tournaments. Lugo is the type of fighter who could start his career 15-0, with 15 KOs. The purists will always question if Lugo can handle a mover, but as Lugo turns pro, it will take a lot of moving to avoid the punishment he loves to inflict.
Amir Anderson, 165 elite – Amir “Cashman” Anderson of New York is one of the top prospects in the country. His dominance in the amateurs is starting to mirror that of Rahim Gonzales, who hasn't been in a competitive fight domestically for I don't know how long. Anderson just seems to be at a different level than his peers. Dating back to 2019, Anderson's two losses at national events are against Samuel Arnold III, who is consistently fighting on the Premier Boxing Champions card, and Donte Layne, another talented New York fighter.
Lorenzo Powell, 132 Elite – Driving six hours from Sacramento to Hollywood, California's Wild Card Boxing Club weekly with his coach Marty Chima, Powell will be a great pro, and he is just getting experience. Powell is one of the most naturally gifted and coordinated fighters, and I expect to go to the next level over the next year or two.
Jose Contreras, 132 Youth – As talented of a young fighter as I have seen first-hand, Contreras has worked hard for nearly a decade invested in the sport and continues to get better each year.
Shera Mae Patricio, 125 elite – Dominant. Patricio comes from a fighting family and has been the best in class for some time. The fight we are waiting on is when Kayla Gomez, and her face-off, as that is a bout between two potential superstars with some heat between the two.
Lupe Gutierrez 119 elite – Gutierrez should've been able to compete at the 2020 Olympics as she won the Olympic Trials against Andrea Medina in 2019, only to not qualify due to the portfolio approach put forth by the coaching staff at USA Boxing. Gutierrez is the most established and decorated fighter in her division. It reminds me of Jose Benavidez Jr. Gutierrez has never been in as good of shape as she is now after joining the WCAP army program and going through boot camp.
Sa'rai Brown-El, 114 youth – Part of the Lugo fight team, Sa'rai Brown-El is a proven winner at every level, with a committed coach, an incredible work ethic, and a track record unlike any other at her age. Brown-El is someone to watch at every tournament.
Alyssa Mendoza, 132 elite – A high-motor fighter who will outwork you and then outwork you some more. Mendoza is a true working-class fighter who has the ceiling of a future world champion.
Daisy Bamberger, 139 elite – A true talent. A southpaw who can bunch with both hands. When Daisy fights to her ability, she is one of the best in the nation. Nearly a decade of being one of the top fighters in the nation.
Kumar Prescod, junior 178+ – It is still early, but Prescod's poise and composure have some in the Bay Area touting him early as the next heavyweight world champion of the world. Prescod is different. He fights like a veteran and at a professional pace.
Joseph Awinongya, junior 132 – A very impressive fighter who might be even more impressive with his accolades outside of the ring. This is a fighter all major promoters should have their sights on as he has a chance to be truly great based on skill and his it-factor.
Elijah Lugo, junior 165 – The younger Lugo brother is another banger who is loads of fun to watch. The Lugo fighting family will make a name in American boxing with the accolades they have received already.
Juan Rivera, junior 138 – A winner at all levels, I am excited to see how he competes and how his evolution to the elite division takes place.
The Very Good
Jewry Rodriguez, elite 119 lbs – A very good amateur from Texas who has come up a little short in her prior elite bouts as it seems experience is the x-factor she is currently missing. Still, a very elite fighter.
Jasmine Hampton, elite 125 lbs. – A formidable fighter with many world-class wins who should have a solid run to the finals.
Mariana Gonzalez, elite 119 lbs – Often forgotten behind Lupe and Jewry, the pressure-style of Gonzalez is a formidable test for any-and-all.
Sharahya Moreu, elite 139 lbs. – A dominant amateur who is adjusting at the elite level. Moreu has the it-factor to excel in the professional boxing game, but I am curious to see how she does at this level of competition, as it wasn't that long ago she was considered one of the best in the country.
Nolan Huntley, intermediate 101 – With nearly 40 wins at the national level before the age of 15 years old, Huntley is someone to keep an eye on. He is the best in his division but has some of the most experience of anyone in the tournament.
Andre McCallum, intermediate 106 – A fighter who is still growing in terms of his frame and has a lot of potential. McCallum has the potential to be someone we view as one of the best in the nation once the Olympic team is picked out for 2024, as McCallum is the next generation after this wave.
Bruno Rios, youth 112 lbs – A come forward pressure fighter who could evolve into a very good pro if he decides to box later in life. Rios has a style of fighting that is very popular for fans of pro boxing in the Los Angeles area, where he also happens to hail from.
Ranulfo Bocanegra, youth 119 lbs – An emerging contender in the lower weights, who currently holds 24 national wins, the most of anyone in his bracket.
Andre Dobson, youth 132 lbs – The classic Ohio boxer who is great at distance control, turning, and can fight on the outside as well. Dobson has the potential to be a world champion, given the right situation.
Antwoine Dorm Jr., youth 156 lbs. – Ranked currently in three different weight classes, “Mr.Man” has all the potential in the world as York, Pa native needs to find his optimal weight class, as it is clear he is one of the best in the country.
Joshua Dodson, youth 165 lbs – Dodson has been on a run since winning the nationals in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. He is a well-rounded fighter from a small town who should get a ton of local support when he makes the jump.
The Sneaky Emerging Fighters
Amy Minter, elite 132 lbs – The former national champion out of Jose Morales Boxing Academy is always doubted and often proves people wrong. She fights rugged and tough.
J.J. Smith, elite 132 lbs – A massive puncher out of the Team Juice boxing stable who is looking to emerge as one of the contenders for the 2024 Olympic Trials.
Diego Bengochea, elite 125 lbs – Bengochea needs a national tournament to get back, as a few years ago he looked to be a can't miss prospect, who has lost his footing losing to Steve Johnson a year ago, and a few startling losses have hurt him. Still, Bengochea
Natasha McQueen, 125 lbs – Working with Oakland's Bilal Mahasin, McQueen is someone I would not be shocked if she ended up in the finals, and will be a very tough professional as her style suits duration and distance more so than a sprint.
Carson Crawford, elite 139 lbs. – Investing a lot of time in the amateurs, Crawford is a fighter, who will upset a bracket in the future, and could give people a run at the top of the division.
Steve Canela, elite 139 lbs – A fighter trained by former flyweight contender Bruno Escalante and world-famous cutman Mike Bazzel. Canela is still very young in the fight game but has a very supportive and professional fight team.