2021 Olympics – Boxers Keyshawn Davis, Richard Torrez Jr. and Duke Ragan set to end men’s drought for gold in the United States
For decades, Team USA has been the standard bearer of Olympic boxing, a factory for future heavyweight champions regardless of weight class.
Floyd Paterson won middleweight gold at the 1952 Helsinki Games before winning the heavyweight championship. Eight years later, Cassius Clay won light heavyweight gold in Rome and became Muhammad Ali. Other heavyweight gold medals followed at each of the next two Games: Joe Frazier in Tokyo (1964) and George Foreman in Mexico City (1968).
Hall of Fame fighters like brothers Leon and Michael Spinks, Pernell Whitaker and Oscar De La Hoya continued the gold rush into the 70s, 80s and 90s. Andre Ward, another Hall of Fame member , wore it in the 2000s, but everything has been quiet for the past 17 years. No American has won gold since Ward in 2004, but on the women’s side, Claressa Shields won gold in 2012 and 2016, while Marlen Esparza won bronze in 2012.
Now three men are on the verge of ending the drought: Keyshawn Davis, Richard Torrez Jr. and Duke Ragan.
“Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Foreman told ESPN the possibility of American men claiming gold in Tokyo. “Just good memories, it was a wonderful experience, because you hear so much, but once there you get overwhelmed by the spirit of the Olympics, I can tell you. Overwhelmed.”
Ragan, a 23-year-old Cincinnati native, has the first chance to win gold after beating Ghanaian Samuel Takyi on Monday to advance to the featherweight final. Ragan (4-0, 1 KO on the pros) will meet Russian Albert Batyrgaziev on Thursday (2:35 a.m. ET) with gold on the line.
Torrez and Davis are both bronze assured, each winning away from their respective final. Torrez, a 22-year-old from Tulare, Calif., Faces Kazakhstani Kamshybek Kunkabayev on Tuesday at 2:18 am. On the other side of the table is tournament favorite Uzbekistan Bakhodir Jalolov, facing Briton Frazer Clarke. The winners will compete for gold on Sunday at 2:15 a.m.
Then there’s Davis, the 3-0 pro seen as a future champion. The 22-year-old paused to advance to the quarter-finals, then edged Russian Gabil Mamedov on Monday. The Norfolk, Va. Native faces Armenian Hovhannes Bachkov on Friday (1:32) in the lightweight semifinals.
Cuban Andy Cruz, who is 3-0 against Davis among amateurs, faces Australia’s Harry Garside in Friday’s other semi-final match. Despite Cruz’s dominance, Davis is convinced that his time in the pro ranks will give him the advantage in a potential fourth meeting.
“These guys can’t beat me,” Davis told ESPN before the tournament started. “I’m the best in the tournament.… If I don’t want to be hit, you’re not going to hit me.”
This is actually the first time Team USA has allowed pros to compete in the Olympics, spurred by the COVID-caused cancellation of the Americas Olympic boxing qualifying event that was scheduled for May in Buenos Aires.
Three pros – Davis, Ragan and Troy Isley – joined the team in Tokyo. The trio were scheduled to represent the U.S. team in Japan last summer, but when the pandemic delayed the Olympics, they all decided to go pro. Now two of them, along with an amateur in Torrez, have the opportunity to end this nation’s fist misery.
Three chances to end the drought. One of them will surely carry on the great tradition that legendary fighters like Ali and Foreman built before them. The wait may soon be over.