The last time that Jahmal Harvey was at Flora L. Hendley Elementary School, he was a rambunctious kid in the fifth grade known more for antics than achievements.
Everything is different now for the featherweight. In December, he returned triumphantly to his school, located at 425 Chesapeake Street, as the recently crowned Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur (AIBA) boxing champion in the male elite weight class, 57 kg/125 lbs. division.
He was welcomed back enthusiastically by students, faculty, and Principal Demetrius Lucas who wrote to Harvey’s family saying, “We are so honored to have Jahmal come back to his alma mater.”
“Boxing changed my life because I loved all sports and especially this one. It gave me discipline and allowed me to travel the world,” Harvey said by phone before preparing to attend a small parade in his honor, organized by ANC Commissioner Olivia Henderson (8D02).
AIBA, also known as the International Boxing Association, is an independent sport organization that sanctions amateur (Olympic style) boxing matches and awards world and subordinate championships. The now 19-year-old pugilist won his world championship bout in November during a two-week stay in Belgrade, Serbia against an opponent from Kazakhstan named Serik Temirzhanov. Temirzhanov was a 2020 Olympian. The Eastern European bout brought Harvey’s illustrious record to 125 wins and five losses.
Before claiming his first world title in that fight, Harvey beat another Olympian, Samuel Kisohurry, who is a French native. Harvey also vanquished the defending world champion Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov who hails from Uzbekistan.
Harvey started boxing six years ago and since then has cumulated eight first-place finishes in various competitions including ones held at the National Junior Olympics, Youth National Championships, Elite National Championships, and the Emil Jechev Memorial Tournament in 2019.
He became USA’s Boxing first male elite World Champion since 2007. Harvey recorded six wins in the Serbian tournament that totaled three rounds per a match and thus became the first USA Boxing featherweight World Champion since 1999.
Preparation & Dedication
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Harvey and his coach, Daryl Davis, took this saying seriously because Harvey’s diet and practice are not for the light-hearted. His training regimen for a fight includes waking up daily by 7 a.m., eating hot oatmeal, and drinking a bottle of water before running four miles around Rosecroft Village.
Upon his return Harvey will shower, relax, and grab lunch around 2:00 p.m. It is always the same, a small sandwich or a small bowl of noodles. He forsakes his favorite food – French toast – to maintain his weight and phenomenal physique.
By 6 p.m. he is at The Campus in Prince George’s County. It is a multi-faceted academic, athletic, and wellness facility. While there Harvey participates in daily strength conditioning and sparring six to eight three-minute rounds with a multitude of other fighters at the facility. The strength conditioning consists of pushups and a myriad of ab works. The day ends around 8:30 p.m. with Harvey showering and having dinner – a hearty but healthy salad.
Struggles in Southeast
Harvey’s mother, Kim Harvey-Blakely, remembers vividly when life was not sublime for Jahmal and her other three children that included his older brother, Domonic Harvey, 20, Amir Lee, 14, and 13-year-old Kimora Lee.
“It was hard at times as a single-mother. I’ve always been a working parent. It seems like Ward 8 (lower middle-class) families don’t get any help. You have to be practically destitute to get some assistance,” Ms. Harvey said, recalling her darkest times struggling to keep her family intact, off the streets, and out of the penal system.
That was one of the reasons why Jahmal (and Domonic) sometimes lived with their father, Jamarr Moody, in Prince George’s County. This pattern began shortly after Jahmal was in the seventh grade at Charles Hart Middle High School on 601 Mississippi Avenue, SE. Domonic also excelled in sports, particularly basketball while at Frank Ballou High School, and earned a scholarship to Colby Community College in Kansas before transferring this school year to Clayton State University in Georgia.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Olivia L. Henderson (8D02) knows too well about the constant struggles that people in the southeast quadrant are facing and overcoming because, as a non-paid community advocate for a dozen years, she is at the forefront of addressing a number of issues that include dealing with landlords, lack of food resources, lack of employment opportunities, and a high crime rate.
“I have known him and his siblings for all of their lives. I applaud his mother for her efforts and for Jahmal’s accomplishments. I am proud but more importantly the community is inspired by a young man like this who didn’t get lost to the streets. He is one of our (Ward 8) treasures,” said Henderson who organized a parade held in Jahmal’s honor that toured through her single-member district that spans parts of 4th Street, 6th Street, Chesapeake Street, and South Capital.
Harvey hopes to qualify for the 2024 Olympics. Thus, the teenager bides his time by listening to rapper NBA Young Boy, watching the Washington Wizards, and working hard to be like his favorite boxer, Terence Crawford.
“I’ll make the decision to turn pro or stick around for another Olympic cycle. The plan is to make enough money in the future to support myself and family. Once I make enough, I’ll also give back to the community,” Harvey promised.
In the meantime, Harvey agrees with his mother, Harvey-Blakely, who recently got married and moved out of the Douglas Knoll Apartments, that the best way to be successful and productive is to focus on positive activities.
“Go to the gym. Do the exercises. Stay off the streets. Stay focused and out of trouble,” says Jahmal.