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The Tank in the Ring

With a tough chin and an unbreakable will, Indiana Sergeant Javar Jones is a rising star on the All-Army boxing team and has dreams of making the 2016 Olympics
Although he’s proud of his boxing hardware, Indiana Army National Guard SGT Javar Jones doesn’t dwell long on his accomplishments. Reflecting on advice given early in his career, he’s always thinking beyond the next fight.
Although he’s proud of his boxing hardware, Indiana Army National Guard SGT Javar Jones doesn’t dwell long on his accomplishments. Reflecting on advice given early in his career, he’s always thinking beyond the next fight.

He trains for weeks. He steps into the ring. He pummels his opponent. And then forgets everything. It’s as if it never happened.

He trains for weeks. He steps into the ring. He gets beaten. And he never forgets a second of it.

Indiana National Guard Sergeant Javar Jones can’t say how many wins he has without looking it up. But he knows exactly how many losses. Of his wins, which numbered 45 entering September, he can barely remember the guys’ names, never mind how he beat them. Of his losses (12 of them), he remembers every punch he took, every punch he threw that missed its mark, every misstep, every blunder of every round.

“I learn more from my losses. They have more impact on me than my wins. If I win, I’m not even too excited about it,” he says. “I want to be the best. If I can figure out my losses and make those almost foolproof, I wouldn’t lose.”

With that kind of attitude, it should come as no surprise that Jones, a rising star on the All-Army boxing team as a lightweight (132 pounds), rarely loses. He won a gold medal in last year’s All-Army tournament and the silver in USA Boxing Nationals. Every win takes him one step closer to his ultimate goal—making the 2016 Olympic team.

Jones hopes to eventually move to Colorado to train full time as a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. On a technicality, that goal is in a state of flux: Olympic fighters no longer wear headgear, but the military’s safety regulations still require it. Until that issue gets resolved, Jones will continue to train in Indianapolis, IN, and work as a 91B auto mechanic. Whatever comes next, the training and discipline he has received as a boxer and Soldier has him well prepared. Inside the ring and out, he’ll win far more than he loses.

“He’s going to be successful in whatever he does in life,” says Staff Sergeant Charles Leverette, coach of the All-Army and World Class Athlete Program boxing teams. “Because he has the drive.”


That inner hunger first became apparent in a win so big even Jones remembers it. When he stepped into the ring against Christian Camacho in April 2013, he wasn’t supposed to win. Truth be told, he probably wasn’t even supposed to come close. Not only did Camacho, the son of the late boxing champion Hector “Macho” Camacho, have a more impressive resume, but Jones was dealing with painful shin splints.

So when Jones beat Camacho—and it wasn’t close, a 3–0 decision—it became a turning point in his young boxing career, a mark of his transition from brawler to boxer, from a young fighter with potential to a young fighter collecting important wins.

For Leverette, the most impressive part of Jones’ win wasn’t the technical acumen he displayed—the way he hit and evaded hits, the patience, the one-two combinations. It was his perseverance, his ability to overcome a fierce opponent while dealing with a painful injury.

“I can teach anybody how to box. I can teach a dog how to box. But you have to have heart. You can’t teach heart. That’s something that’s got to be in you. That’s what I look for,” Leverette says. “What are you doing in the midst of adversity, when things aren’t going your way? What are you going to do? How are you going to adjust? He’s got that grit. He’s got that will.”


Jones’ boxing career started with a chance encounter. He was walking with his cousin near his home in Anderson, IN, when a man in a van pulled up to them. The man was his cousin’s boxing coach, and he asked when the cousin was going to return to the gym.

SGT Javar Jones (far right) attends the Ringside World Championships in Kansas City, MO, Aug. 2, 2010, with Indiana Golden Gloves Boxing champ Steven Perry (far left), coach Richard Morgan and teammate Aaron Lucky. “You box?” Jones, now 22 and a member of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 38th Infantry Division, said to his cousin. “Can I come with you?”

The cousin said yes, and Jones’ life hasn’t been the same since. That coach, Richard Morgan (second from left), became a mentor and father figure for Jones (far right), who was raised by a single mother. Morgan taught Jones about boxing, of course, but more than that, he taught him about life. He took Jones to church with him, gave him confidence and told him he had a bright future. In a foreshadowing of his boxing career, Jones learned from Morgan about avoiding mistakes that lead to failure, though in this case it was through other people’s failures. “He really changed my life.

There’s no telling what I would be doing right now,” Jones says. “He gave me something to do, a new perspective on life. My friends, some of them aren’t doing real well. Some passed away at a young age. Some are in jail or in prison.”

But he’s thriving, and he credits Morgan for that. In fact, Morgan influenced Jones’ decision to join the National Guard in 2010. “What would you do with your life if you couldn’t box?” Morgan asked Jones once—well, lots of times, really. That’s how he taught Jones, pushing him on important things, always forcing him to think beyond the next fight.

Jones couldn’t answer the question. But one of Morgan’s oft-repeated sayings, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” played in his head, over and over. That made Jones think about the Guard recruiter who had visited his high school. He decided signing up would be a great way to answer Morgan’s question about what he would do if he couldn’t box. “He was proud of me,” Jones says. “He was all for it when I told him about it.”

When Morgan died of cancer in 2011, Jones was crushed. But he fights on, every day a chance to make Morgan proud. “Every time I come back to the corner, I’ll picture him getting in the ring, giving me directions,” he says. “I’ll think about him in my corner. I always think about him before every fight. There’s really not a time where I’m in the boxing ring and I’m not thinking about him.”

He thinks of Morgan when he considers his growing collection of medals. Morgan foresaw all of it, and he made it possible by pushing Jones to get better.

“He told me I would be here, where I am now,” Jones says. “Back then, starting off, I didn’t think I would be as good as I am now. But he would always talk to me about the Olympics and the Pan American Games. I was like, ‘This guy’s crazy. I’ll never get there. I’m not that good.’ [But] he believed in me. I really thank him for it. I started believing it myself. I’ve accomplished a lot, and I know he’d be proud of it.”

Jones trains regularly with Marcus Chapman (right), a coach in the Indianapolis Police Athletic League, to help keep his competitive edge in the ring.


After Morgan’s death, Jones began training with Marcus Chapman, a coach in the Indianapolis Police Athletic League. The boxing world is tight-knit, and Chapman has a reputation as a good coach with an eye for talent. So when he called Leverette two years ago to tell him he was working with a talented young fighter who was also in the National Guard, Leverette was intrigued. Leverette was scheduled to attend a tournament in Toledo, OH, where Jones would fight. Based on Chapman’s recommendation, Leverette met Jones there and was immediately impressed with him, in and out of the ring.

Jones (left), shown fighting Thomas Aguilera in April in the semifinals of the Indiana Golden Gloves tournament, has won his weight class in that event for three consecutive years.





“You could tell he was a very respectful kid,” Leverette says. “He came with a lot of ‘yes, sirs’ and ‘no, sirs.’ He even talked to me in parade rest. I was like, ‘Relax. We’ll be all right.’ Right then I saw the discipline.” 

Just like being a Soldier, being a boxer requires two kinds of discipline—the kind that pushes you to train outside the ring/battlefield, and the kind that makes you control yourself inside it.

Of the two, discipline outside of the ring came easier to Jones. He traces that to his upbringing. His mom, Tammie Miller, laughs when she says this, because she knows it sounds unbelievable, but it’s true: “I’ve never had an ounce of trouble from him, and that’s hard for someone to say when you’re a single parent and you have boys.”

The National Guard has helped her son grow into a man, she says. “I was proud of him when they made him sergeant,” she says. “They said it was rare for them to make someone a sergeant as young as he was.”

Her parenting style taught him discipline at a young age. She made sure her children ate dinner every evening at the same time. She put them to bed every night at the same time. She counts herself blessed that the result is a young man in control of his life. Jones’ ability to adopt and adhere to routines has served him well, both in the Guard and in his boxing.

It helps in particular in his training. Jones doesn’t like getting up early to run, but he does it. He doesn’t like putting his jogging shoes back on late at night to run more, but he does it.

About nine months ago, Jones started working with trainer Maurice Willingham, who puts Jones through a workout system he created that uses ropes, kettlebells, medicine balls and natural body weight, instead of the more traditional barbells and dumbbells.

“Boxing training is unique because of its focus on endurance, which is one of the hardest disciplines to train,” Willingham says. “They have to have that endurance, as opposed to someone trying to build strength. You have to force yourself mentally to keep going. That’s the thing about boxers. The determination has to be there, to motivate them to keep moving when the lactic acid builds up, when their muscles start burning, to try to push them to keep going.”

He never has to push Jones. In fact, he sometimes has to rein him in. “He works really, really hard. Too hard,” Willingham says. “He wants to keep going when it’s time to stop. He comes in on his rest days.”

Hoping to make the 2016 Olympic team, Jones sticks to a strict regimen of exercise and nutrition, keeping him lean and fit on lightweight boxing circuit.


As much success as Jones has had so far, Leverette and Willingham say he is just getting started. Leverette calls him “a puppy” in boxing years. “It’s his hard work that’s getting him through,” Willingham says. “I don’t think his talent has been tapped into. He has a long way that he can go.”

He has come a long way already. In the ring, the development of his discipline has been his most important area of improvement. Jones says that early in his career, he rushed into the ring, throwing punches without regard to whether they were effective.

“Boxing is kind of like a chess match. To play chess, you don’t just start moving the pieces. You have to think about it. You have to think about what your opponent’s going to do,” Jones says. “If I do this, what’s my opponent going to do? And if he does that, what am I going to do? You’ve got to be a couple steps ahead of your opponent. You want to make him make mistakes.”

Jones also compares his development in boxing to his development in drawing, the hobby he was most passionate about before he became a fighter. “Drawing and boxing are almost the exact same,” he says. “I feel like if I went back and started drawing now, I would be a better artist because I’ve learned to be more patient.”

Just as he learns from losing in boxing, Jones learned from his drawings about what didn’t work. “I was really impatient with my artwork,” he says. “I always wanted it to be finished. I would imagine it in my head and draw it really fast. I would want the whole piece to be finished that day, or even in a couple hours. That kind of carried over into boxing. I was impatient. [I thought], ‘I want to hit this guy. I need to hit this guy, I need to be winning. I’ve got to hit him.’ ”

That was the brawler in him coming out. As he learned to harness that tendency in favor of a more calculated approach, the boxer in him emerged. Morgan saw that boxer first, and Chapman has lured him out more, punch by punch, fight by fight.

Jones has learned to take his time, to throw smart punches instead of just lots of punches. Now he’s far more systematic. He also moves quickly and precisely. His Guard training helped with that. Following through on a plan for a fight is just like successfully executing a mission. “Being in the Guard gave me a lot of discipline,” he says. “Getting up early in the morning, having self-respect, having respect for others. It taught me a lot of life values that I can carry over into boxing.”


This is Sergeant Javar Jones’ weekly regimen. Sound exhausting? Sometimes he also supplements this routine with workouts on his own.


8:00 a.m. Strength and conditioning (endurance)

45 minutes–1 hour

  • Half-mile jog
  • Core conditioning: kettlebell swings, burpees, dumbbell rows, mountain climbers, kettlebell squat raises—three sets of one minute each exercise, followed by one minute of rest
  • Toboggan run: treadmill set at 10 percent incline at a pace of 8 mph—20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for four minutes

2:30 p.m. Running

30 minutes

6:30 p.m. Boxing gym

2 hours

  • 10 minutes rope
  • Calisthenics—high kicks, side shuffles, forward skips, lunge walks, etc.
  • 10 minutes shadow boxing
  • 10 rounds of bag work, abs, pull-ups, dips


7:00 a.m. Running

7 miles

2:30 p.m. Running

30 minutes

6:30 p.m. Boxing gym

90 minutes

  • Calisthenics—high kicks, side shuffles, forward skips, lunge walks, etc.
  • 10 minutes rope
  • 10 minutes shadow boxing
  • 10 minutes bag work, abs, pull-ups, dips—two sets


8:00 a.m. Strength and conditioning (endurance)

45 minutes–1 hour

  • Half-mile run
  • Core conditioning: kettlebell swings, burpees, lunges, push-ups, kettlebell squat raises
  • Toboggan run

6:30 p.m. Sparring

Six rounds


7:00 a.m. Sprints

Length depends on other workout factors

  • Treadmill 10 percent incline, run for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds

5:00 p.m. Boxing gym

  • 10 minutes jump rope
  • Six rounds shadow boxing
  • 12 rounds (including bag work, speed bag, hand pads)
  • Sprints: treadmill 10 percent incline, run for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds (length depends on the day)


Rest day


11:00 a.m. Light gym workout

  • 10 minutes shadow boxing
  • 12 rounds bag work

10:00 p.m. Running

6 miles


Rest day


Jones, who boxes in the lightweight class, faces the constant battle to give his body the proper amount of fuel to train while staying within weight regulations. For him, that means taking in a total of 2,700–2,900 calories every day and eating five meals per day. Here’s his overall approach:

MEAL 1: Protein, fruit, carbohydrate

Example: 32 oz. of water with lemon and lime; eggs; cereal and oatmeal

MEAL 2: Meat or low-carb protein shake (one serving)

Example: Chicken; shake; 8 oz. of water

MEAL 3: Meat, carbohydrate, vegetable

Example: Pasta; chicken; vegetable; 8 oz. of water

MEAL 4: Meat or low-carb protein shake (one serving)

Example: Chicken; shake; 8 oz. of water

MEAL 5: Meat, fat, vegetable

Example: Grilled chicken with spinach; trail mix; 8 oz. of water