Opportunity Awaits Rising Boxer Jordan Roach At This Week’s Olympic Trials
by Steve Drumwright
The youngest child in a family has the benefit of being able to follow in their siblings’ footprints.
But when your older sister is a doctor and your older brother just became a world champion boxer, those footprints can feel substantial.
No, we aren’t necessarily talking about career expectations. Jordan Roach, at 20 years old, is still building toward whatever comes his way. Already, though, he’s got two promising avenues for a future career: boxing or cooking.
As a boxer, the native of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is getting ready for this week’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Roach is the No. 1 seed at men’s 51 kg.
As a cook, there’s a lot of promise there, too — but also responsibility.
“They stopped cooking often,” Roach said with a bit of a chuckle regarding his parents. “They used to cook a lot (when I was younger) and then just occasionally. They be asking me what’s for dinner — and I’m like, ‘Y’all are the parents.’”
While he enjoys his role in the kitchen, Roach is hoping he has the right recipe in the ring at the Olympic trials. He’s one of 12 competitors in his weight class and has his first fight Wednesday after receiving a first-round bye. If all the ingredients come together as planned and he wins the trials, Roach would advance to the USA Boxing selection camp in January where he’d go against Roscoe Hill to see who will earn the ticket to the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
Just like when whipping up a big meal in the kitchen, Roach’s preparation has been on point for one of the biggest weeks of his life.
“It’s been going good. This is one of my better camps,” Roach told TeamUSA.com over the weekend. “I’ve also been in camp with my brother because he just won the world title. Training camp has been good. I’m feeling sharp. One of my better training camps.”
Roach certainly has the motivation and inspiration after being around brother Lamont Roach Jr. as he used a 12th-round knockdown to get a split decision over champion Hector Luis Garcia for the WBO super featherweight title on Nov. 25.
In addition to using that time to get some pointers for his upcoming bouts at the Olympic trials — as he’s done his whole boxing career — Jordan Roach was responsible for his brother’s meals, which included trying to shave a pound or two in time for the title fight. All of that has Roach filled with the utmost confidence. When asked who his biggest challenger is this week, Roach said there isn’t one.
“I’m not overlooking anybody. My (confidence) is the hard work that I put in,” said Roach, the reigning U.S. elite champion. “That’s the reason. It’s not dissing nobody. I know the work I put in. And some of the people in there, I beat a lot them already. I beat a lot of the seeds already, and the people I have beat, they have already beat the other people. So I’m the man to beat.”
A win in Louisiana would set up a rematch with Hill, who beat out Roach to represent USA Boxing this year at 51 kg.
“He’s a cool, tricky fighter,” Roach said. “Respect goes out to him, and I look forward to running it back.”
Roach said an injury to Hill limited the time the two had to spar during that process. But being injured is nothing new to Roach. With two torn shoulders during the Czech Grand Prix in May, he fell in the semifinals before bouncing back to take the bronze medal. He has also dealt with shin splints, a calf strain and a Lisfranc injury that prevented him from running for an entire camp, among other ailments.
“It’s been a little frustrating, but it’s life,” Roach said. “I can’t just sit there and complain about it. I just have to keep working.”
There is another factor pushing Roach in his drive for the Paris Olympics. It’s the memory of his cousin Bernard “Boogaloo” Roach, who founded what would be the NoXcuse Boxing Club in Capitol Heights, Maryland.
Boogaloo Roach, who got both Jordan and Lamont into boxing, died in October 2017 following a heart attack. Jordan Roach honors his cousin each fight by with a black T-shirt that has Boogaloo’s image on the front surrounded by the inscription “R.I.P. Boogaloo.”
“He’s played a major role in all of this,” Roach said. “He’s the one who got my father to start training. He used to box, and then he turned into a coach. He’s coached big names. He’s coached ‘Chop Chop’ DeMarcus Corley when he fought Zab Judah. He’s coached a lot of good pros. He’s the reason that I’m at this point in my life right now.”
Roach recalls a video of Boogaloo urging his brother to get to the 2016 Rio Olympics. While Lamont didn’t make it to Rio, the younger Roach is pushing for Paris to make his cousin proud.
“It would mean everything,” Roach said. “Because at first, this wasn’t really a dream. ... The funny thing is, I seen Roscoe fight and I was like, ‘Man, he was boxing these guys’ socks off.’ That’s what we say. He was beating these guys up from all over the world.
“I’m like, ‘I can do this.’ So then I moved down (in weight class) and then I won last year’s nationals. ... The closer I get to a goal, the more I want to do it. I was never really too focused on Paris. Now that I’m getting close. It’s like giving me the itch to do it.”