Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Student And Amateur Boxer Omari ‘The Banger’ Jones Heads To Paris Olympics 2024

Pictured: Valencia College student and amateur boxer Omari Jones at the School of Hard Knocks gym. Jones is preparing for the Paris 2024 Olympics. (Jeremy Gottschalk)

This summer, Valencia College student and amateur boxer Omari Jones is landing all of his punches with academic excellence and a spot on Team USA at this year’s Paris 2024 Olympics. At just 21 years old, Orlando native Omari “The Banger” Jones qualified on March 11 in Italy against fellow Olympian, India’s Nishant Dev. Jones now holds the prestigious role of representing USA Men’s Boxing for the Welterweight Division. Jones, in the pursuit of his lifelong passion, has his personal drive, his family, and his supporters to thank for his rise to be a world champion. 

Pushing both his mental and physical limits, the Business Administration student expects to compete in the Olympics this summer and then graduate from Valencia College by the end of the year. Jones said that his education plans are to stay local and attend University of Central Florida next for his Bachelor’s. While balancing his workload in the classroom and in the ring, Jones attributes his success to the unparalleled support of family and friends.

Education Is A Family Affair For the Joneses

Omari’s mother Debra Jones knows what it takes to be a Puma. As an alumna, Debra Jones graduated with a degree in Accounting in 1990 from Valencia College. Jones expressed how thankful she was for the affordability and flexible online college courses for her son. Securing the family’s legacy includes following up with homework questions, as well as persisting in asking how her son is doing in classes.

“He’s very determined, he sets goals and manages time wisely. There’s a lot of balance; training, life, school.” When asked about the most rewarding thing about being a parent of an Olympian, she said, “Knowing that this is his goal; what he wanted to do. He set forth this goal and made it happen. Along with his family togetherness, his faith in God and through his journey… it’s been a matter of manifesting and things coming together.”

A Lifelong Passion

Jones’ boxing journey began much earlier than college. When asked at what point he knew he’d be a boxer, Jones said, “It was always my goal; I knew I was a natural. I was doing everything I was supposed to in the sports. Loving it as a kid, I was always ready to be in the gym. I would go in and have the most energy in the world.”

Jones began with karate lessons at age 4, then added boxing at age 8. His father remembers how coaches dubbed Jones “The Banger”, a term used to describe a powerful puncher and inside fighter. That nickname follows him today.

Pullquote Photo

When asked at what point he knew he’d be a boxer, Jones said, “It was always my goal; I knew I was a natural…Loving it as a kid, I was always ready to be in the gym.”

— On realizing his potential

Omari Jones notes that through the experience, he’s had a supportive, albeit sometimes cautious, family dynamic. 

“It makes me proud. My family has supported me since I started… To represent the last name Jones means everything; it leaves a legacy, a history for my family.”

Omari’s father, coach and patriarch of “Team Jones” Karl Jones explained what raising an Olympian boxer entailed.

“He’s got a lot of support. At first my wife didn’t like it; she worried about the safety of the sport. I think boxing sets the bar for safety. You’ve got the headgear, gloves, referees in the ring… it was pretty safe coming up,” assured Karl Jones. He expressed being happy to be a part of his son’s dream. Jones jokingly mentioned how his name became “Omari’s dad” as his son’s reputation grew.

Omari Jones has worked diligently in recent competitions. He won his first international tournament, the 2021 Elite World Championships. In 2022, he secured another win with the USA Boxing International Invitational. He would go on to win two more  international tournaments in 2023; the 2023 Gee Bee International Tournament and 2023 Czech Republic Grand Prix.

Becoming His Best

Jones’ manages a delicate balance with his education and boxing career. The 21-year-old is active within his community and still finds time for hobbies and interests. (Jeremy Gottschalk)

Helping to focus the energy in the ring is Head Coach Jason Galarza of School of Hard Knocks  gym in Casselberry. SOHK offers youth programs, amateur and professional training, as well as programs for weight loss. 

Galarza first saw Jones spar against one of his mentees and offered Jones’ coach to let the young boxer train under him. After an initial decline, it was Omari’s father who reached out. Within two weeks, Galarza began his training with the prodigy. With fifteen years of experience, Galarza began sending Jones out to fight professionals and watched the adaptation of his skills to a master level in a relatively short time. Under his tutelage, Galarza explains Jones’ mentality in the ring now, stating, “To become a master boxer, you are literally playing chess in your brain. You are knowing what you want to do and what they are going to do two steps ahead.”

Having an Olympian training under him hasn’t put as much pressure as opportunity on Galarza. He believes within four years that he will have another contender, or two, for the next Olympics in 2028.

Jones says he has had opportunities to meet and train with boxers including 2020 Olympics Silver medalists Richard Torrez, Jr. and Duke Ragan at the Colorado Springs Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado. For him, the whole experience has been “mindblowing”.

While Jones is focused on his training, his overall goal is to bring the Gold home to Orlando. Through it all, he remains humble and thankful for everyone who has supported him on this journey as he heads to the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Medals of the Paris 2024 Games. (Paris 2024 Olympics)
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About the Contributor
Jeremy Gottschalk
Jeremy Gottschalk, Editor-In-Chief
Jeremy Gottschalk is pursuing The Digital Media Communications Associate in Science (A.S.) degree at Valencia College in preparation for higher education in both journalism and cyber security. Gottschalk is a former college newspaper Editor-in-Chief for University of the Pacific’s "The Pacifican". Gottschalk is a former National Security Agency cryptologic technician and cyber analyst. He is also an 11-year Navy veteran who has traveled to over 30 countries. While not in school, Jeremy volunteers at community events, completes DuoLingo courses in Spanish and German, and enjoys nature activities such as hiking.

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