U.S. Men Are Getting Better Boxing Results, But They’re Still Chasing Gold
TOKYO – Russian Albert Batyrgaziev won gold in featherweight boxing on Thursday to stop the first of three Americans trying to win gold in men’s boxing for the first time in 17 years.
Batyrgaziev, using bursts of speed and following the rules of amateur boxing that reward many punches in a short period of time, won a 3-2 split decision over Duke Ragan, a fighter from Cincinnati who, like Batyrgaziev, is in the early part of his professional career.
Batyrgaziev and Ragan have seven combined pro fights – all wins – and after their fight for gold they immediately started selling a possible rematch down the line.
“It would be an additional motivation, an additional motivation to continue training, in order to find yourself as professionals,” said Batyrgaziev, 23, who started in kickboxing before moving on to boxing at 18 with the goal of becoming an Olympian.
Ragan was hoping to join Andre Ward, a fellow American who won light heavyweight gold at the 2004 Games in Athens and cheered on Ragan throughout his run in Tokyo. Since then, America’s biggest Olympic boxing success has been Claressa Shields, who won Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016 as a middleweight before turning pro in boxing and mixed martial arts.
“I’m proud of you brother” Ward said on Twitter after the fight. “You made your family and your city proud. Rest, regroup, it’s time to win a world title.
Ragan, who started his professional career during the coronavirus pandemic in a series of fights hosted by boxing promotion company Top Rank in Las Vegas, said he hoped to get revenge on Batyrgaziev on a bigger stage, “as fight for a world title or something. “
Their fight was one of nearly 300 that took place during these Games at Kokugikan Arena, an intimate, tiered venue in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo, known as the primary focus of sumo wrestling in Japan. The arena, although modified for the Olympics, has retained the portraits of 32 great wrestling champions, known as the yokozuna, in the rafters. And it retained its dark red carpet floor and seating on the upper deck, although the rugs along the mezzanine lacked their iconic cushions – zabuton in Japanese – which would normally be used as seats of choice all the way to the ring. sumo.
Ragan had qualified for these Games in part because of changes to the way boxing was organized for the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee suspended the International Boxing Association over judging issues, ethical violations and corruption, and placed the sport under the control of a special task force.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of several qualifying events, and the task force decided to use the results of previous tournaments to fill the free places for the hundreds of fights organized in Tokyo, which played a role. in favor of Ragan.
Two other American men are competing for gold: lightweight Keyshawn Davis, who has a semi-final on Friday, and super-heavy Richard Torrez Jr., who fights for gold on Sunday in one of the final Olympic Games events. Oshae Jones won bronze on Tuesday after losing a women’s welterweight semifinal.
In Olympic boxing, each of the losing semi-finalists wins a bronze medal without entering another fight.
Ken belson contributed reports.
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