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USA Boxing Olympic hopefuls fight for trip to Tokyo 2020 this week

Written By | Dec 9, 2019
Accomplished amateur boxer Charlie Sheehy hopes to punch a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Courtesy Team Sheehy USA Boxing

Accomplished amateur boxer Charlie Sheehy hopes to punch a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Courtesy Team Sheehy

SAN DIEGO, Calif., November 29, 2019 – The road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next July goes through Lake Charles, Louisiana this week as 64 of America’s best male amateur boxers and 40 of America’s best female boxers hope to advance their prospects.

The top two boxers in each of the eight men’s’ and five women’s’ divisions will move on to the next stage of selection in January at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The men’s’ lightweight division has produced some of the most enduring champions in boxing, including Pernell Whitaker, (1984) Oscar De La Hoya (1992), and Vasiliy Lomachenko (2012). Once again this year, the lightweight talent is deep and the competition for the two spots will be fierce.

Charlie Sheehy hopes to carry lightweight division legacy

Charlie Sheehy (back row, third from left) recently spent time training at Florida's Centeno Sweatbox Gym, alongside pro veterans and prospects. Photo: Team Sheehy

Charlie Sheehy (back row, third from left) recently spent time training at Florida’s Centeno Sweatbox Gym, alongside pro veterans and prospects. Photo: Team Sheehy

Among the young men in the mix is Western Elite Qualifier Champion Charlie Sheehy of Brisbane, California. A three-time national Golden Gloves Champion and four-time national PAL champion, he was a member of USA Boxing High Performance squad in 2018.

“My dreams and goals were always to become an Olympian before turning pro,” said Sheehy. “It just made sense to me. I was 17, young, and hadn’t fought in the men’s division yet. I just always wanted it. Then I started having success in the men’s division. I could actually see the Olympics becoming reality.”

Experts have their eye on the 21-year-old Sheehy. With the encouragement of lifelong trainer Miguel Rios, Sheehy spent several weeks training with Javiel Centeno at his gym in Davie. Florida, improving his game alongside pros including former world title challenger Amir Iman, undefeated pro lightweights George Kambosos Jr. and Emmanuel Tago, and Xander Zayas, at age 17 the youngest fighter ever signed to Top Rank Boxing.

Undefeated Australian lightweight George Kambosos Jr. has helped Charlie Sheehy train for the Olympic Trials. Photo: Charlie Sheehy/Instagram

“My coach came out here with me. We tested it for a week, and we can tell we’re getting better out here,” said Sheehy.

“It’s been really good out here training alongside Kam, Iman, and all these guys in positions as professionals, like I want to be,” said Sheehy. “Watching them push themselves, I’m pushing myself.” Sheehy said training in Florida heat and humidity prior to the trials in Louisiana is a bonus.

“I’m so focused on making this happen. All I think about is winning. I’m going to do everything I can,” said Sheehy. “You have those days where you just go to the gym and go through the motions. Now that it’s here I know I can make this happen. I’m focused. I’m going real hard I’m ready.”

Sheehy sees his chief rivals as 2019 Pan American Games and World silver medalist Keyshawn Davis of Norfolk, Virginia. “Keyshawn has been making a lot of noise this past year. I’m looking forward to having a fight with him. He’s the one guy in the weight class I haven’t fought yet.” Dalis Keleiopu of Waianae, Hawaii and Harley Mederos of New York are among the other top competitors in the division.

“I think my greatest skill is my ability to gauge my distance and get my distance right. I always work on having good space between me and my opponent, so I can get full length on my punches. It helps me get full power on my punches,” explained Sheehy.

“I’m working on using more frame, more angles, more combinations, and getting my condition ready. Getting as strong as I can be,” said Sheehy.

Whitaker, De La Hoya, and Lomachenko set the standard

Charlie Sheehy hopes to follow in the footsteps of previous Olympic gold medalist in the lightweight division to launch a successful pro career. Photo: Team Sheehy

Sheehy says he’s aware of the legacy of the Olympic lightweight division, with Whitaker, De La Hoya, and Lomachenko among the gold medalists in its history. “The legacy of the Olympics, all those guys turned out to be very good pros. I can’t wait to see my name going down next to theirs in history,” said Sheehy.

Sheehy recognizes the growing strength of the spotlight on him as a promising potential member of the 2020 Olympic boxing team. “It comes with the sport. It’s exciting just knowing, like wow, this is actually starting to happen to me. People are starting to know who I am. I need to start building off it,” said Sheehy.

Whether Sheehy makes the team or not, he’s a prospect with an exceptional ring IQ and the drive to make it as a professional like his California rivals Ryan Garcia, both from the Bay Area and who Sheehy defeated as an amateur; and Vergil Ortiz, Jr. Sheehy says he has a “friendly rivalry” with Garcia, and has enjoyed seeing Ortiz Jr.’s rise. “Vergil has gotten pretty big. I’m sure when we’re all at the top, we’ll all be at the same weight and make those fights happen. That’s a dream of mine for sure,” said Sheehy.

But for now, Sheehy’s got business to do in Louisiana this week. “Tune into these trials, watch how much better I’ve gotten since the last time you saw me,” says Sheehy to his growing fan base. “Hop on my bandwagon now!”

You can watch the USA Boxing Trials all week live online here.

Top emerging talents to watch in this week’s tournament:

Rahim Gonzalez is at the top of the 178-pound amateur ranks. Photo: MIchael Angeletti, Team USA Photo

Anthony Herrera of Norwalk, California, will compete in the 114-pound division. He’s trained by Edgar Jasso at the Legendz Gym alongside the stable of trainer Manny Robles, including former world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. Herrera is a classic Los Angeles pressure fighter.

Delante “Tiger” Johnson, age 21, of Cleveland is among the hottest amateur prospects in boxing with a strong 51-12 record. He will compete in the 152-pound division. But he qualified through a “last chance” tournament and missed weight at the Eastern qualifying tournament, so he needs to bear down to avoid letting his chance slip through his fingers. Either way he’s got a pro career waiting for him.

Rahim Gonzales of Las Vegas is soaking up the influence of the professional scene, including his mentor Malik Scott. Trained by his father, he is ranked first in the 178-pound division. Gonzales has focused more on training than competing in the past year, so he needs to avoid ring rust issues. The 21-year-old is mature and confident.

Adrian Tillman is an Army veteran hoping to achieve his Olympic dream at heavyweight. Photo: USA Boxing

Adrian Tillman of Riverside, California, could be the Jamel Herring of the 2020 Olympics. The 24-year-old is an Army veteran with solid international experience. He’s the most promising American amateur heavyweight since Deontay Wilder won bronze in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Women will compete in five divisions in Tokyo 2020. Among those to watch:

Ginny Fuchs has a spotlight on her but still needs to secure her spot on Team US. Photo: Ginny Fuchs/Twitter

Ginny Fuchs didn’t qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, but she’s much improved and is a standout amateur star with an Adidas sponsorship and lots of attention from NBC Sports. She’s working for one last shot at age 31 in the 112-pound division. Fuchs has been public about overcoming OCD and among the most well-known faces of the entire USA Olympic Team. But she’s got to win to get to Tokyo. Fuchs is an experienced southpaw with power, but she can’t sleep on younger rivals.

Andrea Medina fights out of Chula Vista, California’s emerging Bound Boxing Gym. She is a power puncher with the attitude to match. She’s willing to take a shot to dish out two in return. She fights in the 125-pound division.

If the name Rashida Ellis sounds familiar, it’s because she’s the younger sister of undefeated welterweight pro Rashidi “Speedy” Ellis. At age 24 she has plenty of experience and she’s hungry to follow in her brother’s footsteps.

The women’s 152-pound division may produce the biggest fireworks of the entire tournament. Oshae Jones is the overall favorite among the men and women to score a 2020 Olympic Gold Medal after winning gold at the Pan Am Games. She’s 21 years old, from Toledo, Ohio.

Danyelle Wolf took a detour through mixed marital arts but has returned to her first love, boxing. Photo: Danyelle Wolf

Jones may run into Danyelle Wolf of San Diego, California, a 36-year-old veteran who used to be a rival of current WBC super-middleweight champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn. Wolf took four years away from boxing to pursue mixed martial arts, becoming a Bellator standout. She’s also trained in Muay Thai. Now she’s back for another Olympic run. She is athletic and confident. Jones and Wolf would be a stunning one-two combination on the 2020 Tokyo squad.

Boxing will begin on Monday, December 9 at the Lake Charles Civic Center, with the finals taking place Sunday, December 15 at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

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

Copyright © 2019 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.