LIMA, Peru – On the final day of competition, the U.S. Boxing team had four opportunities to add to the gold medal Oshae Jones had secured a day earlier at the Pan American Games Lima 2019. Duke Ragan, Keyshawn Davis, Virginia Fuchs, and Naomi Graham were all fighting for gold Friday at Miguel Grau Coliseum.
Even though all four claimed silver, the day was still a huge success for USA Boxing, as a team that includes of 11 boxers making their Pan Am Games debut won 10 medals -- one gold, four silver, and five bronze. The U.S. total is its highest in the event since winning 11 at the Pan American Games Caracas 1983.
Team USA’s evening started with the men’s bantamweight (56kg.) final between Ragan and Cuba’s Osvel Caballero. The crowd was on Caballero’s side, shouting out “Cuba! Cuba!” throughout the fight. Caballero proved too nimble for Ragan, ducking many of his punches and returning with vicious counters. Caballero never let up, winning each round in a unanimous decision.
“I thought he was going to be more of a pressure fighter,” Ragan said. “But I had to come forward and be the pressure fighter, so I was getting caught with a lot of shots that I didn’t really see coming. I kind of got away from the game plan.”
In the men’s light welterweight (64kg.) final, Davis entered the bout looking for revenge. His opponent, Cuba’s Andy Cruz, defeated him by a split decision at the Pan American Games Qualifiers in Managua, Nicaragua earlier this year.
Davis lost by a 4-1 decision. Both fighters came out hard, swinging with ferocity. This took an obvious toll on energy levels as the fighters began to lean on each other.
Davis rebounded in the second, ducking and weaving around Cruz’s punches. He narrowly won the round, winning on three of the five cards. Despite the momentum generated from a solid second round, Davis couldn’t carry it into the third. Cruz returned to form and connected on some huge shots down the stretch to take home the gold in a close fight.
“I’m very disappointed,” Davis said. “Everybody expected me to get gold, and I came up short. I’ll learn from it. I’ll go back to the drawing board and try it again.”
Fuchs met a familiar opponent in the women’s flyweight (48-51kg.) final. She had fought her opponent, Ingrit Lorena Valencia of Colombia, twice before in international competition. In the first meeting in 2016, Valencia won by unanimous decision, eliminating Fuchs from Olympic contention. Fuchs avenged this loss in the 2017 Elite Continental Championships with a unanimous decision.
This time, it was Valencia’s turn as she defeated Fuchs by a 4-1 decision. Valencia and Fuchs uncorked massive swings early in the first round, with Valencia establishing an early advantage. Things seemed to balance out in the second round. Fuchs began with a solid combo to Valencia’s head and played solid defense for the remainder, but the judges all ruled in favor of Valencia in the round, further widening the gap.
In the third, Fuchs impressed again. With less than a minute remaining in the fight, Fuchs landed a devastating combo that wobbled Valencia for just a moment. The two drained the rest of the clock largely wrapped up, avoiding big hits and attempting to muster energy for a final blow. Neither connected on their last significant charges as the bell rang.
Fuchs’ third-round performance was enough to catch the attention of most of the judges, but the damage had been done and Valencia maintained her previously established lead and won the gold.
“I know it was really close,” Fuchs said. “I definitely got the third and I feel like I got the second. I kind of felt like I won, but I know it was super close. Maybe it could have gone either way, but I felt like I pulled it off.”
With three straight losses from her U.S. boxing teammates, the burden of securing a gold for the United States fell to Graham in the women’s middleweight (69-75kg.) final as she squared off against Jessica Caicedo of Colombia. She, too, was unable to get a victory as she was defeated by a 4-1 decision.
Three of the five judges awarded the first round to Caicedo. In the second, the two opened it up. In the final minute, Caicedo took advantage of some defensive lapses to score easy points, win the round on all five cards and establish a lead.
To start the third round, a shot to the jaw caught Graham by surprise and sent her wobbling off the ropes as she attempted to avoid Caicedo. Despite this rocky start, Graham rebounded nicely. Four of the five judges had her ahead in the round.
“I definitely thought I did enough to win gold,” Graham said. “Apparently the judges saw it different. It’s a slight disappointment, but it still feels good to represent my country, and I’m still happy to bring home silver.”