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Jennifer Lozano makes Laredo history at Olympics

SANTIAGO, CHILE (AP) – The city of Laredo, Texas, has its first Olympian.

Boxer Jennifer Laredo qualified for next year’s Paris Olympics on Thursday by reaching the final of the women’s 50 kilogram weight class at the Pan American Games.

The 20-year-old Lozano was dominant in the semifinal against Canada’s Mckenzie Wright in Santiago, winning 5-0. She will face Brazil’s Beatriz Ferreira, a silver medalist in Tokyo, for the gold medal.

Laredo has about 230,000 residents and sits on the US border with Mexico. Lozano said in a recent interview that her city, a mix of poor and better off, is “very small, very closed-minded,” and she wanted to overcome its machismo to thrive in sport.

Next year, both sides of the city will be pulling for the boxer nicknamed “La Traviesa” (The Troublemaker in Spanish). It will be a different scene compared with a few years ago, when she was bullied for being overweight and a Spanish-speaker.

Boxing changed it all for the hardcore fan of boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. Her other hero is her late grandmother, the main inspiration for her to compete.

“We are going to Paris, baby. La Traviesa es de Laredo, Texas. We are ready for all of the world, we are going to the Olympics,” a tearful Lozano said in a mixture of English and Spanish. “Being the first Olympian from Laredo means a lot to me.”

She celebrated her Olympic berth with family members who travelled to Santiago to watch her compete.

“I am very proud to be Mexican-American,” she said.

Laredo could get a second Olympian in Paris. Boxer Emilio Garcia, who could not secure his spot at the Pan American Games, will have two more events to try to qualify for next year in the 63.5 kilograms category.

Canada’s Mckenzie Wright, left, and Jennifer Lozano of the United States fight in a women’s boxing 50kg semifinal bout at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, October 26, 2023. PHOTO: AP