Andrea Medina poses for a photo at USA Boxing Olympic Team Trials in Dec. 2019 in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Much to her surprise, boxer Andrea Medina’s reputation preceded her to Europe.
“People in Spain that I didn’t even know knew I was ‘The Boss,’” she said. “So, that’s amazing.”
The 21-year-old has had the nickname since she was a little girl – well before anyone realized how perfect it was for boxing or how great it would look on a T-shirt next to her picture.
“My family always told me I was a bossy kid,” Medina said.
She’s certainly demonstrated this year that she’s in charge. When 2020 began, Medina was one of two female boxers in the 57 kg (bantamweight) class vying to make Team USA. The other was Lupe Gutierrez, who defeated her twice at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Boxing last December. Medina went into the trials ranked No. 4 in the weight class while Gutierrez was No. 7.
However, according to USA Boxing’s criteria, that was just the first step toward the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Two boxers in each weight class were invited to training camp and then to the Strandja tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, in January. In her first international event, Medina punched her way to the silver medal.
“I really wanted to show them that I was the one that they should pick for the Olympic qualification team,” Medina said.
Soon after, the San Diego native was named to the 13-person squad that will compete for qualifying berths in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
As Team USA was preparing to head to Argentina for the Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament in March, the pandemic hit, the event was cancelled and the athletes were sent home.
“That was very unfortunate,” Medina said. “A lot of us were down about it, since we were ready to go qualify, but thinking back, I feel like it was more time for me – since I’m new to the team –to get more experience and just work on the things that I had to fix in the ring.”
She learned the ropes within coach Billy Walsh’s system and, despite some trepidation about competing during the pandemic, returned to Europe in October for two tournaments.
Medina said Team USA took extensive precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19, with tests at home and upon arrival in each country. At the Boxam Tournament in Castellon, Spain, Medina won her first international gold medal as Team USA dominated the event. She then garnered her second gold medal of the month with a victory over Sweden’s Stephanie Thour in the Alexis Vastine Tournament in Nantes, France.
That made her 3-for-3 in international podiums. Matt Johnson, the USA High Performance Director, said he knew Medina would perform, well, like a boss.
“I’ve been saying it for while – I think she’s a dark horse to come on the scene,” Johnson said. “She actually has medal potential for Tokyo next year.”
First, of course, Medina has to qualify. Boxers who don’t earn a berth in the first qualifying tournament have a second chance at a later event.
“I think if she’s able to perform at the level that she’s shown that she’s capable of, we do expect her to qualify,” Johnson said, “and then it’s just a matter of getting her best performance every day at those tournaments and then at the Olympic Games.
“If we get her best performance, I think she’s capable of beating anybody in the world.”
Medina started boxing boxing at 5, but couldn’t get her passbook to compete until she turned 8.
Her father, Juan Medina Jr., is her primary coach and is the founder of Bound Boxing Academy. Although he was a boxer, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Andrea would follow him into the sport.
“My parents were planning to put me in karate,” Medina said, “but there was a boxing gym right next door and that really caught my eye, so they put me in boxing instead. That was my choice – they weren’t going to put me in something I didn’t want to do.”
She definitely preferred punching to kicking. Medina and her younger brother Juan III, who is now 18, would shadow box in the living room with their father. Rather than taking family vacations, the family, which also includes Medina’s mom Clarissa and sister Jovanna, would go to boxing tournaments.
“My favorite part is it being an individual sport,” Medina said. “It’s on nobody except myself in the ring. I motivate myself – I can tell when I’m a little bit behind, when I’m ahead, when I need to push more.”
She said her strengths are her power and aggressiveness.
“When I’m in the ring and I hit my opponent with a good punch,” Medina said. “I can really tell on their faces that it kind of hurt. That’s when I ‘go for the kill.’”
Johnson said Medina has great stamina, a sound offense – particularly her jab – and has been working on her defense.
“She listens really well to instruction,” Johnson said, “and I think she absorbs all the information that Coach Billy and Coach Jose (Polanco), our strength and conditioning coach, give to her. That’s really shown in her development over the past year. It has been fun to watch.”
One carryover has been listening to Drake as part of her pre-fight routine. “It just gets me pumped up,” said Medina, whose favorite album is “Take Care.”
She has tried reaching out to Drake on social media. Medina and some teammates even posted a video in which they rapped to his song “Miss Me,” featuring Lil Wayne. They tagged Drake, but Medina, said, “We haven’t gotten anything back yet.”
That doesn’t mean she won’t keep trying.
In the meantime, Medina has a lot on her plate. After taking a semester off last year, Medina is a full-time student at San Diego State University with a major in criminal justice. She wants to minor in psychology and has considered becoming a fire investigator.
Her family has also started breeding French bulldogs, with three females at the moment including Medina’s 11-month old puppy, Phoebe.
Starting Nov. 28, Medina joined the rest of the Olympic Qualification squad in Chula Vista, California. They’ll train until Dec. 14, with teams from Great Britain and Canada joining the camp.
In a recent Instagram post, Medina wrote “Let the hunger inside represent you.”
She’s been hungry for an Olympic gold medal since watching Claressa Shields, Queen Underwood and Marlen Esparza compete in the first Olympic women’s boxing tournament in 2012. Shields took home the gold, repeating as champion in 2016, and Esparza won the bronze.
“A gold medal would mean everything to me,” Medina said, “especially just making my family proud and accomplishing my goal that I’ve had since I was very young. I would be very, very proud of myself and it would make all the hard work and all the sacrifices pay off.”
When Medina won back-to-back National PAL titles in 2014-15, followed by her first youth national crown in 2016, she realized that she could actually do something in her sport.
After all, you can’t spell Andrea Medina without the word DREAM.