Brothers Jamaal and Jabari Gregory know their amateur boxing days are numbered.
The Hidden Valley residents have reaped opposite results in the ring in 2014, but both view this week’s trip to Spokane, Wash., as the next step toward pursing their dreams of representing the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Jamaal, 20, and Jabari, 21, are taking a leap of faith by competing in the prestigious USA Boxing Elite National Championships on Jan. 19-24.
Should they fare well, the Gregorys may earn a spot on the American team that will compete in this summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto.
A strong showing there could earn them spots on the Olympic team.
“I’ve aspired to be part of the Olympic team since I first started doing this” at age 14, said Jamaal. “Other than winning a world championship when I turn pro, the Olympics were the ultimate goal.”
The Gregorys train at the Charlotte Boxing Academy, housed at the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department’s Revolution Park Sports Academy on Remount Road. They are coached by their father, Tim Gregory, a man with a boxing past but a novice when it comes to coaching.
A 47-year-old Hickory Grove resident, Tim Gregory was a sparring partner in the 1980s to Kelvin Seabrooks, a Charlottean and once an International Boxing Federation bantamweight world champion.
Around six years ago, Tim’s sons, who live with their mother, Selena Williams, tried boxing for the first time. Tim supported their initiative but only advised them from the fringe.
Even then, the differences in Jamaal and Jabari’s approaches to the sport were evident to their father. Jabari was always the more athletic of the two, but Jamaal had a fierce determination.
That was no more evident than in Jamaal’s first set of bouts as a teenager. In his first 15 fights, he lost 15 times.
“Jabari isn’t as dedicated as Jamaal,” said Tim Gregory. “Jamaal isn’t as talented as Jabari, but he was more dedicated. For Jabari, (boxing) was just something he was doing.
“Jamal really wanted to excel and achieve certain goals. He just wasn’t winning.”
Jamaal’s persistence paid off. He won USA Boxing Junior Olympic state titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
In 2013, Jamaal, a Central Cabarrus graduate, and Jabari, a Vance High grad, moved to Concord.
Jabari stepped away from boxing and got a job to help pay the family’s bills. Jamaal found a gym in Concord where he continued to train.
The family moved back to Charlotte last year and sought out Charlotte Boxing Academy once again. The academy is led by renowned coach Al Simpson, who oversees a handful of volunteer assistant coaches.
Tim Gregory became one of the volunteers.
“My coaching experience was limited,” he said. “A lot of my experience came from watching coach Simpson and watching YouTube. I just studied it. I never knew how to wrap hands. I learned how to wrap hands by watching YouTube.”
Fighting bouts throughout the southeast this year, Jamaal posted a 9-1 record in the 152-pound division, prompting Simpson to encourage him to set higher goals. Jabari, who fights at 141 pounds, hasn’t been so fortunate, winning only one of his five bouts.
Heading to the USA Boxing Elite National Championships, Jamaal and Jabari are equally confident.
“I’m 21 now,” said Jabari. “I either have to do this now or turn straight pro. This is a lot better route to try to make it to the Olympics. … I’m going to win this tournament.”
Jamaal and Jabari both work as furniture deliverymen. They financed this week’s trip by saving some money and receiving financial backing from family and community members.
With the timing dependending on their chances of fighting in the Olympics, the Gregorys expect to turn pro sometime in 2016.
For now, they will concentrate on the biggest step in their boxing careers, including traveling by airplane for the first time.
“This will be the biggest trip we’ve ever taken as a family,” said Jabari. “We’ve never done anything like this before.”