Keyshawn Davis, a 3-0 pro widely hailed as Team USA’s best hope to end the gold-medal boxing drought for the men, advanced to the Round of 16 with a 5-0 victory over the Netherland’s Enrico Lacruz on Saturday evening in Tokyo.
Davis, 22, won all three rounds on all five cards. He’s looking to become the first male boxer to win gold for Team USA since Andre Ward in 2004. (Ward is currently an ESPN boxing analyst.)
Fighting out of Norfolk, Virginia, Davis won over the judges with a sharp jab and smooth combinations that he was able to deliver before evading incoming shots.
“These guys can’t beat me,” Davis told ESPN last week. “I’m the best in the tournament. … If I don’t wanna get hit, you’re not going to hit me.”
Davis’ lightweight triumph capped a 3-0 start for the American men, a team looking to reclaim its dominance on the global stage. The United States holds the all-time lead for boxing gold medals at 50 (the sport was introduced at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis). Team USA grabbed six gold medals at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
In recent years, Team USA has floundered, the lone gold medals coming from Claressa Shields, who starred at both the 2012 and 2016 Games (women’s boxing joined the Olympics in 2012.)
Duke Ragan, a 4-0 pro from Cincinnati, kicked off in-ring festivities Friday for the American men with a 3-2 victory over France’s Samuel Kistohurry at featherweight. Earlier Saturday, Delante “Tiger” Johnson outpointed Argentina’s Brian Arregui, 3-2, in a welterweight match.
The third pro on Team USA, Troy Isley, has his Round-of-32 match Monday vs. Belarus’ Vitali Bandarenka at middleweight. Isley, a 2-0 pro from Washington, D.C., is promoted by Top Rank along with Ragan. USA Boxing hasn’t allowed pros to compete in the past, but the cancellation of the Americas Olympic Boxing Qualifying Event, scheduled to take place in May in Buenos Aires, opened the door for the inclusion of the pros. The Olympic qualifier was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
All three men were actually prepared to head to Tokyo last summer before the pandemic postponed the Games. With the Olympics delayed one year, the trio decided to turn pro rather than wait. Turns out they were able to fight in both the paid and unpaid ranks after all.
It wasn’t a flawless start for Team USA, though. American Yasiel Ramirez lost 5-0 to Croatia’s Nikolina Cacic on Friday in a female featherweight fight.