Boxer Robby Gonzales On Overcoming Obstacles And His Journey To Team USA
by Robby Gonzales
My Olympic journey has not been easy. But no one said it would be. Easy is not a word that you can associate with my life.
It’s almost surreal to think about the countless challenges that have shaped me into the athlete that I am today. It’s been a long road, one filled with injuries, disappointments and personal struggles. But through it all, I’ve learned the true meaning of resilience and the importance of staying committed to my dreams.
My journey in the world of elite boxing began when I was just seven years old. Like many young athletes, I had lofty aspirations of representing my country on the national stage and, ultimately, at the Olympics. However, the path to achieving that dream proved to be far more challenging than I had ever imagined.
From a young age, I faced adversity in the form of constant setbacks. I never made it to the youth team or the national team for USA Boxing. It felt like I was always coming up short, even when I turned elite. For the first two years of my elite career, I consistently placed in the top three, but that coveted first-place finish eluded me.
In 2016, it was a learning experience. I missed qualifying at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials because I didn’t feel like I was ready to handle the responsibilities that came with that heavy workload. I blame my lack of maturity. I wasn’t focused, and my decision-making was questionable. It was a wake-up call, and I knew I had to change if I wanted to succeed.
It wasn’t until 2018 that I finally tasted victory at the national championships. That year was a turning point for me, and I started to believe that my dream of representing my country at the Olympics was within reach. However, life had other plans for me.
In 2019, just as I was on the cusp of achieving my dream and joining Team USA, I faced a heart-wrenching decision. I had to put my Olympic aspirations on hold to finish school and deal with family situations that demanded my attention. It was a tough pill to swallow, watching my friends on the team travel the world and represent our country while I waited on the sidelines. But I was determined not to give up.
The year 2020 was supposed to be my moment. I had dedicated myself to the sport, refined my skills, and earned my place on Team USA. Since the last cycle I believed in myself more — but we all know what happened that year. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill, and my dreams of competing in the Olympics were once again put on hold when the qualification process changed and I fell short.
But since that time, I have worked tirelessly on myself, both as an athlete and as a person. I have learned to manage my emotions better and to stay focused on my goals. Discipline became my guiding principle, and I made sure to stay consistent in my training and approach.
The support of my parents, especially my dad, played a crucial role in keeping me disciplined. My dad, who also serves as my trainer, pushed me to work hard every day. He was tough and made it clear that there was no room for excuses. He expected me to return from every competition with nothing less than a gold medal.
I also learned the importance of keeping a tight circle. While some friends and family members may have doubted my decision to continue pursuing my Olympic dream over turning pro, I knew deep down that I couldn’t give up on something I had been dedicated to since I was a child. I have since learned to trust my instincts and surround myself with those who believe in me.
Trusting the process has been essential in my journey. Winning the world championships in 2021 gave me the confidence that I was on the right path. I realized that the Olympics were the ultimate goal, and I couldn’t let setbacks define me.
Injuries have also been a recurring theme in my journey, and this cycle has been no exception. From neck problems to a recent ankle sprain, I’ve had my fair share of physical setbacks. But I approach injuries as opportunities to refocus and come back even stronger. It’s all part of the process.
Looking ahead, my dreams are as big as ever. The Olympic Games Paris 2024 is the next goal on my horizon and as much as I am determined to make it there, the Pan American Games is where I am putting my attention right now. If I can dominate there, then that will qualify me for the 2024 Games.
But for now, I want to focus on what’s right in front of me and take it one step at a time. I won’t make the mistake of overlooking the challenges that lie ahead. If I’ve learned anything from the past it’s that the path to success is often filled with unexpected twists and turns.
While it might seem daunting to think back on everything I’ve encountered, the thing that really helps my mental health is winning. I hate to lose.
So, no matter how many obstacles stand in your way, keep pushing forward, stay disciplined, trust the process, and remember that setbacks are just setups for comebacks.
As told to Lisa Costantini
Lisa Costantini has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for more than a decade, including for the International Olympic Committee. She is a freelance writer who has contributed to TeamUSA.com since 2011.