Ask boxer Divante Jones about determination, and he will have tell you that he's a living definition of the word.
For the past 11 years, the Hephzibah resident has been training hard with one primary goal in mind: Qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Now, after so many years of hard work, that moment is finally here.
Starting June 20, Jones will compete in the 2011 USA Boxing National Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo. He will have to win at least two matches at the championships in order to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, held July 31 through Aug. 6 in Mobile, Ala.
Right now, all of his attention is focused on his personal goal of making it to the 2012 Olympics.
"Boxing is basically a lifestyle," he said. "I don't go a day without thinking of a combination, something I need to work on to improve my skills. In other words I don't like wasting a lot of time; time that could be better off spent training or getting better."
The 19-year-old Jones, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 132 pounds, has come a long way as a boxer.
His record as an amateur is 98-22. Jones said that out of all his fights over the years, the ones that stand out in his mind the most are the ones he lost.
"Those are the ones that hurt you the most, because you know that once you get in the ring, you don't want that feeling again, and that makes you progress forward," he said.
Jones said that when he first started boxing, he would sometimes get prefight anxiety, but over time he has learned how to mentally prepare himself for matches.
"Now everything is just natural and ready because, first of all, before I step in the ring I know I have to ask myself the questions: Did I train hard for this? Did I work hard for this? And if I know that I did then there will be no problem stepping in and doing what I have to do," he said.
Jones' decision to become a boxer came about because of his admiration for his other family members who were also boxers.
"I saw how exciting of a sport it was. Knowing that my dad, my uncle, and my other family members boxed, that's when I decided I wanted to be the best at it," Jones said.
Throughout his training, Jones says that his biggest mentor has been his father and manager, Albert Jones.
"He's been the main role model in my boxing career because he's helped me stay focused, build up my confidence, he's the one that taught me about staying focused and that really helped me a lot," Jones said of his father.
Albert Jones said that the moment for his son to become an Olympian has arrived and he believes his son can make it happen.
"We had a goal set from the very beginning. Now we're starting to see everything come to fruition," the elder Jones said. "We've sacrificed a lot of pain and pleasure to get to this point. The time is here, the time is now, and we're excited just to get to this point."
When it comes to respecting professional boxers, however, Jones said that he does not look up to anyone.
"I'm my own role model," he said. "When you set out to become the best, you can't be respecting anybody."
Reach Jonathan Overstreet at firstname.lastname@example.org.