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There are few sports as historic as boxing. Each match is an exhibition of magnificent strength and grace; a showcase of precision, perseverance and discipline. But perhaps more captivating than the boxers themselves are the stories of how they entered the ring. Olympic Heavyweight Champion Nate Jones is no exception. Born and raised in Chicago’s Cabrini—Green housing projects, an area once infamous for its rampant drug use, gang activity, excessive violence and decrepit living conditions, Jones went from convict to conqueror, earning a bronze medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in the Heavyweight Boxing competition.

 

Jones’s upbringing was grim. He and his twin sister, Natalie, were the tenth and eleventh children to mother Christine Jones. With no time to get to the hospital, he was born in the seventh-story walkup apartment that he would call home. Growing up, Jones was notorious for his undefeated street fighting record. It wasn't until he was eight years old that he met his mentor, Tom O'Shea, and jumped in the ring. Though the young talent showed promise, his first eight fights ended in loss—but O'Shea stuck with him, even when Jones began abandoning O’Shea’ program for the gang-related activity that surrounded him.

 

In 1987, Jones joined a gang called the Cobra Stones—a gang that maintained control over his apartment building. Amidst running odd-jobs for his fellow gang members, heisting cars or dealing drugs, Jones was arrested for robbery and car theft and incarcerated at age 18. Shortly after his release in May of 1993, a close brush with a second incarceration inspired him to clean up his act.

 

Through all of it, O'Shea was there: he sent Jones letters while he was in prison, offered Jones advice when he was scared, and ensured the young talent that there was always a spot for him in the boxing ring. O’Shea saw boxing as a valuable way to build a child’s self-esteem and as a path to healthy self-expression—this mentality held true, especially as it related to Jones.

 

Once Jones was released from prison, O’Shea worked with Jones tirelessly, pushing the determined boxer to hone his skills and perfect his technique. In 1994, less than a year after his release, Jones earned the Golden Gloves heavyweight national title and became known as an unstoppable force in the world of boxing. His professional career boasts an 18-2 record with one draw, two national Golden Gloves awards and a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.

 

Jones has also garnered great influence out of the ring as assistant trainer to undefeated champion Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, Jr., whom he worked with prior to the “Fight of the Century”, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. He has been regarded as one of the best trainers in the sport and, in addition to Mayweather, now works with a range of legacy boxers, amateurs, and young talents, ushering the next generation of boxing champions.

 

Nate Jones holds a firm belief that, with the right guidance and support, any young person can maximize their potential and achieve their dreams. Through the Nate Jones Foundation, he hopes to inspire and encourage at-risk youth to follow their passions, find success, and, above all, believe in themselves.

 

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