Jiohvani and Ariana Soto Ramos eat, sleep and breathe boxing.
For the past seven years, 13-year-old Jiohvani and 15-year-old Ariana have been working hard to perfect their craft. In the days, weeks and months leading up to this week’s 2020 USA Boxing National Championships – delayed from its original December start – their typical day includes up to five hours of training at Kona Gold Boxing Club with coach Kaleo Padilla. From strength training to conditioning to sparring, the two have made sure they’re in peak form to prove they belong on a stage with some of the country’s best young boxers.
“We’re always just working to get better,” said Jiohvani.
This year’s tournament, held in Shreveport, La, isn’t the first time the two have competed on the national stage; in 2018, both boxed in the National Silver Gloves Tournament. Jiohvani emerged from the tournament with the title and top ranking nationally in his weight class, and Ariana claimed the No. 2 national ranking with her performance.
While they have continued to compete and rank highly on the national level, including at the National Junior Olympics, both Jiohvani and Ariana insist they’ve got plenty to prove when they step back inside the ring this weekend.
“I don’t think of myself as a champion,” said Jiohvani. “I win this thing, and I’ll become a champion.”
For Ariana, a 2019 surgery forced her to take an extended break from competition. As a result, her national ranking dropped. She’s eager to reclaim her rank and show she’s back on top of her game.
“That just encourages me,” she said. “I want to get back to the top rankings.”
An extra bonus awaits Ariana if she can claim the top ranking at this year’s national championship: a spot on next year’s High Performance Team with USA Boxing. Though the stakes are higher this year, the nerves that come with those stakes are helping her keep focused.
“If you’re not nervous, something’s wrong,” she said. “When we’re up here at these type of competitions, we’re only going up against the best.”
Jiohvani still has a couple of years before he’s old enough to qualify for the High Performance Team, but he’s already got a prize in mind if he can take home the title.
“McDonald’s,” he said with a laugh, making a note of how strict his diet has been to ensure he stays in his current weight class. “That’s my motivation right now.”
Jiohvani’s first fight will take place this morning, with a potential title fight awaiting him tomorrow should he emerge with a win today. Ariana will wait until tomorrow before she steps into the ring for her title fight.
Looking back, the pair had a long list of people they wanted to thank for helping them get to this point.
“Everybody who helped us, everybody who sponsored us. Auntie Misti, our strength and conditioning coach Alika, One Slap,” said Ariana. “All of our boxing teammates: they really push us. The boxing moms and parents: they all encourage us so much and never let us give up.”
With so much support along the way, Ariana is confident both she and Jiohvani will be able to get the job done this weekend.
“We want to represent Hawaii and bring back that win.”