Each month, Team USA Awards presented by Dow celebrates outstanding achievements of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Boxer Duke Ragan won Male Athlete of the Month for September 2017, during which won world championship silver. In Ragan’s Diamond Club feature, presented by Dow, he discusses his softer side and what it means to draw inspiration from his daughter.
|Duke Ragan (R) competes in the men's bantamweight semifinals at the AIBA World Boxing Championships at Sporthalle Hamburg on Aug. 31, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany.|
Duke Ragan has a quiet, tender side that many people don’t see. The soft-spoken 20-year-old boxer works with children every day, and he’s completely wrapped around the fingers of his newborn daughter.
When Ragan steps in the ring, though, the only thing soft is his boxing gloves. And even those pack a powerful jab.
Last month Ragan boldly did what no American boxer has done in eight years. At the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Hamburg, Germany, he won the first U.S. silver medal at the world championships since 2009. He was also named the Male Athlete of the Month for September for Team USA Awards presented by Dow.
Boxing is the one single thing that drives him. It’s his passion.
“I was good at other sports, but they didn’t motivate me enough,” Ragan said. “When you get in that ring you’re by yourself. I’m passionate for boxing. It’s the only thing I like to do.”
But it’s not the only thing he does. When not training, the self-professed “momma’s boy” helps around his mother’s daycare. He also likes working with animals, he said.
Ragan started boxing at a young age after watching his brother train countless hours with their father, Derek Ragan. The name “Duke” was Derek’s longtime nickname, so it felt natural to pass it on to the next budding boxing star who wants to duke it out at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Duke first put on boxing gloves when they were almost as big as he was. Although his father said Duke was too little to hit the punching bag, little Duke swung at it anyway.
He fought his first fight on Nov. 26, 2006, when he was 9, and he’s since rung up an amateur record of 150 wins and 20 losses. His accomplishments between that first fight and his silver medal at the recent world championships include competing at the 2016 Olympic trials and winning 2016 elite and Golden Gloves national titles.
The biggest influence in his young career is Rau’shee Warren, a three-time U.S. Olympian and fellow bantamweight fighter who held the IBO and undisputed WBA title from 2016-17. Ragan was 15 when he began training with Warren, Ragan said.
His biggest motivator is someone who can’t even talk yet. His daughter, Kynnedi, was born on Valentine’s Day this year.
“She’s my baby girl, and she makes me want to do better,” Ragan said. “I constantly think about my little girl and think about what I can do for her.”
Now 20, Ragan will aim for gold at the USA Boxing Elite National Championships in Salt Lake City that’ll take place Dec. 5-9. From there, he plans to fight as an amateur through Tokyo in 2020 and turn professional after that.
Ragan said his biggest asset in the ring is his powerful jab, but feels he can get it even better — as can other attributes.
“Sometimes I get lazy and not on balance,” Ragan said. “And I need to work on putting my hands back up after jabs.”
Going from a softhearted man and dad outside the ring into a fierce competitor in the ring is as simple as flipping a switch for Ragan, who said he shows no fear.
“When I’m in the ring, that’s a grown man facing me and they’re trying to knock me out,” Ragan said. “I’m a grown man in that ring and I’m not going to let them take me down.”
Ragan lives and trains at his Cincinnati home and gym since getting back from training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Three days a week he runs and works out in the morning, puts in a day at his mom’s daycare, and then spars at the gym. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he wakes up and does conditioning work, followed by helping at the daycare, and does bag work to sharpen his boxing skills.
On Sundays he goes for a “relaxing” run of anywhere from 7-10 miles.
When he wakes up every morning, he looks at his daughter and she is all the inspiration he needs to push himself to be better than he was the previous day.
“She’s my motivation every day when I wake up,” Ragan said. “She makes me go harder now, even when I’m in the gym.”
Scott McDonald has 18 years’ experience in sports reporting. He was named the State Sports Writer of the Year in 2014 by the Texas High School Coaches Association. McDonald is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.