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Hardware haul: US Olympic boxing produces best results in 20 years

Written By | Aug 3, 2021
Featherweight Duke Ragan will fight for a gold medal, the best result for a male American Olympic boxer in decades. Photo: Courtesy USA Boxing US Olympic boxing

Featherweight Duke Ragan will fight for a gold medal, the best result for a male American Olympic boxer in decades. Photo: Courtesy USA Boxing

SAN DIEGO, Calif., August 3, 2021 – US Olympic Boxing team members will bring home a guaranteed four medals from the Tokyo 2020 Games, with three men and one woman making the quarterfinals at the end of Monday night’s competition. But if you were relying on NBC Sports’ coverage of  Olympic boxing, you might not have a clue.

The US Olympic boxing squad has placed four of its boxers in the medal rounds. Photo: USA Boxing US Olympic Boxing

The US Olympic boxing squad has placed four of its boxers in the medal rounds. Photo: USA Boxing

Duke Ragan shines as he goes for gold

Monday night, featherweight Duke Ragan of Cincinnati advanced to the final and will fight for gold, defeating a game Samuel Takyi of Ghana by split decision. Due to the nature of the amateur weight divisions, Ragan fought a bigger man in the 20-year-old Takyi, one of just two boxers from Ghana to compete in the Games. Ragan’s four professional fights under the Top Rank Boxing banner over the last year gave him the edge with skilled defense and smart punch selection driven by excellent hand speed to get the win. Takyi goes home with a bronze medal and a bright future.

Ragan awaits the semifinal winner on Tuesday between Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba and Albert Batyrgaziev of the ROC (AKA Russia).

Keyshawn Davis gets down to business

Keyshawn Davis had to dig down and secured his win with a third round knockdown. Photo: Courtesy USA Boxing

Welterweight Keyshawn “The Businessman” Davis won in the following bout, advancing to the semifinal and guaranteeing himself a bronze with a split decision win. Davis was in control throughout the bout against Gabil Mamedov of ROC (AKA Russia) but had to bring the heat in the third round to overcome sketchy judges’ scorecards. He landed a hard left hook to drop Mamedov 1:15 into the round and kept up the offense with excellent bodywork. Give Mamedov credit for being tough enough to end the fight on his feet.

Davis faces Hovvhannes Backhov of Armenia in the semifinal on Friday, August 6.

Both Ragan and Davis put their promising professional careers on hold to join the American team. The unusual nature of the pandemic delay made it possible when no other amateurs had enough wins to qualify in time.

Davis’s win guaranteed the best outcome for the American boxing team since the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. There, junior welterweight Ricardo Williams and featherweight Ricardo Torrez won silver, and bantamweight Clarence Vinson and junior middleweight Jermain Taylor won bronze.

Boxing head trivia: the most notable winner from those games, bantamweight gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba, has a title fight on August 14 against John Riel Casimero of the Philippines. What a stat.

Ambitious Richard Torrez Jr. rolls on

Richard Torrez Jr. celebrates his quarterfinal victory.

Super heavyweight Richard Torrez Jr. of Tulare, California, defeated Dainier Peró on Friday, the first American win over a Cuban since Dirrell did it. Torrez Jr., age 22, is an experienced and accomplished amateur and could become the first super heavyweight gold medalist from the US since Tyrell Biggs in 1984; Ray Mercer won the heavyweight division gold in 1988.

Torrez Jr. has only one goal, and it’s gold. “It’s great (to win), but we’re not here for a medal, we’re here for a gold, and that’s my goal … I’ve been a medalist before, and medals are great, but I’m not here to be a medalist, I’m here to be a gold medalist. That’s my goal. That’s my ambition.”

Ambition is part of Torrez Jr.’s DNA. He also played high school football and basketball, participated in track and field, was on the chess club – oh yes, and was valedictorian of his senior class. He faces Kamshybek Kunkabayev of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals on August 4.

Oshae Jones the last American woman standing

Oshae Jones is the first American to make the medal rounds in boxing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Toyko. Photo: NBC Sports/Screenshot

Welterweight Oshae Jones of Toledo, Ohio, was already assured of making the medal round. She also appears on the August 4 card in her semifinal against Hong Gu of China. Gu, age 32, is the top-ranked amateur female welterweight.

Jones is using the power of visualization. “I’ve thought about winning a medal and had a vision of me standing on the podium. I practice my gold-medal speech every day, so I plan on winning,” said Jones. The 23-year-old Jones has far more experience, and she’ll need to dig down for the win.

It’s been many years since Americans dominated the Olympic boxing ring. But they don’t dominate the professional ranks either with so much international talent. Still, the showing in Tokyo is Team USA’s best in two decades, and this outcome is worth noting and celebrating.

NBC Sports chooses badminton over boxing

So why isn’t NBC giving American boxing any exposure? In a Morning Consult survey published by Axios before the Olympic Games, boxing ranked ninth out of 50 sports as those Americans most wanted to watch. Instead, they get badminton, table tennis, and oh so much beach volleyball.

NBC is airing professional boxing via its Ring City USA platform. It professes to be promoter agnostic. Despite two of the four medal contenders already being young pros signed to Top Rank, it’s in the network’s interests to give it some exposure. When is the last time you watched professional badminton or table tennis?

If you’re sufficiently motivated, use the live stream website to catch the action daily, which cards starting at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT and 4 am ET/1 am PT or thereabouts. They’re also available on demand.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on social media at@PRProSanDiego.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.  

Copyright © 2021 by Falcon Valley Group


Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award-winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.