First female active duty boxer punches ticket to the Olympics
June 30, 2021

Naomi Graham has become the first female active duty boxer of the U.S. military ever to qualify for the nation’s Olympic boxing team.

Graham’s older sister, Rachel Clark, fought as a pro boxer from 2008 to 2011, and influenced her younger sister to eventually take up the sport as well. 


Naomi Graham at 2019 U.S. Boxing Olympic Trials, Lake Charles, La., December 24, 2019. (Photo by Brittany Nelson)

After boxing for a handful of years, the 14-year-old Graham began working at a Sonic Burgers to stay afloat. As time passed, Graham struggled to both accumulate enough money and remain dedicated to her sport, and eventually became homeless for nearly a year. 

Graham toiled to get by and largely kept her homelessness to herself, only accepting help when friends offered it out of good will.

Through experiencing such intense hardship, Graham learned the value of a disciplined mind. She soon decided joining the military would be the best option for her. 

Shortly after entering the US Army, Graham earned an associate’s degree in medical specialties. This achievement was second only to her eventual admittance into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP).

The WCAP is home to top-tier athletes who balance their respective sports as well as their duty to the country. Graham is no exception. 

After only four years of training under USA boxing assistant Joe Guzman, a former Army heavyweight boxer, Graham was making waves in the boxing world. 

Her first true showcase against Olympic-level competition was at the 2018 World Championships in New Delhi, India. After two wins, Graham found herself losing against No. 2 seed Qian Li of China, and taking home a bronze medal.

The following year Graham won the same tournament outright. Since then, she has gathered a litany of domestic and international tournament wins.

Staff Sgt. Graham is poised to take home gold in July and is currently ranked 1st in the US and 6th in the world.

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