Virginia Fuchs (red) lands a cross on Ingrit Valencia Victoria (Colombia) in the women's boxing fly (48 - 51kg) finals at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 2, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
Don’t expect “winner take all” Sunday in the championship bouts of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Starting Monday, 64 men in eight weight classes and 40 women in five weight classes will compete in a double-elimination bracket. Any fighter who makes the final will remain in the hunt for a shot at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
In all but one division, the two fighters entering the ring Sunday will advance to a multi-nation training camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, next month and an international tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, Jan. 17-26.
The exception is the super heavyweight division (201+ pounds/91+ kilograms) where Richard Torrez Jr. has a medical exemption. Torrez was considered the favorite but is not allowed to compete in the trials because he suffered a knockout loss (to a professional boxer) at the world championships in September. The trials take place during the timeframe in which he is suspended.
As a result, Torrez will fight the runner-up in his division on Jan. 4, 2020, in Colorado Springs in what will be a winner-take-all scenario to advance to the training camp.
Once the 13 boxers—one in each class—are selected based on a wide-ranging point system, even then there’s no guarantee of going to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. They still have to qualify in their weight class internationally. Team USA boxers will fight in the American Olympic Qualification Event March 26-April 3 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is one of four continental events.
Athletes who do not qualify in Argentina have a final chance in the World Olympic Qualification Event May 13-24 in Paris.
Here are six burning questions going into the trials.
1) What Are Team USA’s Prospects For 2020?Claressa Shields reacts after defeating Christina Hammer and becoming the women's undisputed middleweight champion on April 13, 2019 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
After only eight American boxers qualified for Rio (six men and two women) out of a possible 13, Team USA hopes to be back to full strength—or close to it—in Tokyo.
“USA Boxing has built some great momentum coming into the 2020 Olympic year,” said Matt Johnson, USA Boxing high performance director. “With seven elite world medalists, along with several other Pan Am and youth world medalists, we have more depth and international experience than the program has seen in a long time. Our performance staff is excited for the challenge ahead and the opportunity to help our team stand atop the world’s biggest podium come August 2020.”
At the Olympic Games Rio 2016, Claressa Shields was the only gold medalist, defending her title at 75 kg., with Shakur Stevenson winning the silver at 56 kg. and Nico Hernandez claiming bronze at 49 kg.
Twelve Team USA boxers competed in London, with Shields winning gold at 75 kg. and Marlen Esparza taking bronze at 51 kg. in the Olympic debut of women’s boxing.
Team USA has not had a men’s gold medalist in boxing since Andre Ward won at 81 kg. in 2004.
2) So What’s This Point System?(L-R) Christina Cruz fights against Nicole Michel (Switzerland) in the women's 54kg preliminary match during the AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships on May 13, 2012 in Qinhuangdao, China.
First of all, winning in Lake Charles does make a slight difference in an athlete being selected to the international qualifiers. The gold medalist receives five points and the silver medalist gets three points.
However, with a maximum of 65 obtainable points, those two points are a slim margin.
According to USA Boxing guidelines, athletes also can receive up to five points in four other categories with five points awarded for excellent (exceeded expectations), four points for very good, three points for good, two points for fair, one point for poor and no points if the athlete did not fulfill any aspect of the topic.
The topics are:
- Punctuality (on time with required apparel and/or equipment for all team functions).
- International Performance Potential (potential for success at international level based on assessment of technique and skill by USA Boxing’s national head coach and national assistant coach)
- Weight Management (compliance with body weight management policy).
- Health Management (compliance with all medical rules and guidelines).
Boxers can receive up to 10 points for Performance in Training (successful implementation of techniques and tactics taught by USA Boxing coaches).
The biggest chunk of points – a maximum of 30, or nearly half – comes from International Competition Performance. A gold medal at the Strandja Tournament in Bulgaria, is worth 20 points, silver 15 and bronze 10. Athletes also earn points for winning preliminary bouts against ranked opponents or losing preliminary bouts against eventual medalists.
USA Boxing began this new selection procedure at the start of the quadrennium for all of its international events and it has proven successful. It definitely keeps athletes on their toes.
3) What’s The Format For The Trials?Duke Ragan exchanges punches with Osvel Cabellero (Cuba) during the men's bantam (56kg) final at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 2, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
Since the 2016 Olympic Games, the weight classes have changed, with the number of men’s events reduced from 10 to eight and the number of women’s events increased from three to five.
Bouts are three rounds of three minutes each.
Scoring is based on three criteria, the most important being the number of quality blows on target area. Judges also assess domination by technical and tactical superiority and competitiveness.
The event is free to the public Monday-Friday at the Lake Charles Civic Center, with an entrance fee charged for semifinals on Saturday. The tournament moves to the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino for the Sunday finals, with potential box-offs on Monday.
4) What Are The Biggest Comebacks To Watch?Virginia Fuchs (red) lands a cross on Ingrit Valencia Victoria (Colombia) in the women's boxing fly (48 - 51kg) finals at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 2, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
Flyweight Virginia Fuchs came closer to becoming an Olympian than any of the 103 other boxers in Lake Charles. She actually won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing, but was third in the international qualification event and did not advance to Rio.
Determined to make it to Tokyo, Fuchs did not turn pro. Although the Olympic Games allow professionals in boxing, Team USA is one of the countries that only allows amateurs.
Fuchs has won eight international medals since the 2016 trials. Her 51 kg. division includes fellow veteran Christina Cruz, a two-time world championship bronze medalist competing in her third trials, while Heaven Garcia is a two-time world champion in the junior and youth divisions and Youth Olympic bronze medalist.
Another female boxer with a compelling reason to come back is Danyelle Wolf, a 36-year-old who moved over to the MMA. She decided to give the Olympics another try when her original weight class of 69 kg. was added to the program, meaning she didn’t have to compete at 75.
Other female boxers making repeat trials appearances are Melanie Costa (57 kg.) Naomi Graham (75 kg.) and Amelia Moore (60 kg.).
Mary Spencer, who won three world championships and placed fifth at the 2012 Olympic Games while representing Canada, has dual citizenship and is now competing under the U.S. flag at 69 kg. She will turn 35 on Thursday.
On the men’s side, Duke Ragan and Bruce Carrington (57 kg.) and Rahim Gonzalez (81 kg.) are trials veterans.
5) What Are The Biggest Rivalries?Delante Johnson fights against Roniel Sotolongo (Cuba) during the men´s boxing welter category at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 30, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
If Troy Isley and Javier Martinez make it to the 75 kg. finals, it will be their fourth in a row against each other at the national level. Isley won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017 while Martinez won last year. Isley represented Team USA at the Pan American Games Lima 2019, winning the bronze medal. The 2017 and 2018 bouts were split decisions. Martinez actually qualified for the trials in both the 75 and 81 kg. divisions.
At 152 pounds, Delante Johnson and Freudis Rojas Jr. have the same birthday (Aug. 13, 1998) and call each other twin brothers. Johnson claims he is older because he was born in Ohio and Rojas was born in Las Vegas (and now lives in Texas). They went to their first youth world championships together in 2016 in different weight classes, but with the divisions reduced for 2020 they are now in the same bracket. Johnson, known as “Tiger” has been called the best amateur in the country, but missed weight at the Eastern qualifiers. Rojas is the 2018 national champion, but did not compete internationally since Johnson got the nod.
6) Which Notable USA Boxing Alumni Will Be In Attendance?(L-R) Mark Breland trades blows with Jorge Vaca on Sept. 13, 1991.
Olympic champion Mark Breland is expected in Lake Charles for the USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame induction on Friday night. Fellow Olympic gold medalists Joe Frazier and George Foreman are also members of the class, along with legendary coach Al Mitchell and celebrated cutman Ray Rodgers. Sen. John McCain will be posthumously presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award for his work to protect boxers and elevate the sport.
Other Olympians expected to attend include Andrew Maynard (1988 gold), Frank Tate (1984 gold), Mikaela Mayer (2016), Jackie Beard (1980 qualifier) and Tim Dement (1972).