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When Keyshawn Davis was in ninth grade, he decided his smaller stature might bear more potential in the boxing ring than on the football field.
He was on to something.
Davis, now a 20-year-old from Norfolk, Virginia, has accumulated quite a list of accolades throughout his amateur boxing career, and yet in some ways the two-time USA Boxing elite national champion is just getting started.
His biggest step yet came last month, when he captured a silver medal in the lightweight division at the AIBA Elite Men’s World Championships.
Just getting to the final required the seventh-seeded Davis to beat France’s Sofiane Oumiha, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist and 2017 world champion. In the semis he dispatched of Armenian Hovhannes Bachkov to become the lone member of Team USA in any weight class to reach a final in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
And though Davis fell to top-ranked lightweight Andy Cruz of Cuba in the title bout, he still became the first American in 26 years to earn a medal in the lightweight division. The last American boxer to medal at the worlds was Larry Nicholson in 1993, and there were only two American lightweight medalists at the worlds before Nicholson: Tonga McClain and the late Olympic champion Pernell Whitaker, another Norfolk native.
As someone who appreciates the sport’s history, Davis knows that claiming silver was a big deal. At the same time, he’s already looking forward to what’s next, including the next chapter in his budding rivalry with Cruz.
“I should have two shots at (Cruz) again,” Davis said.
The showdown with Cruz in Ekaterinburg was the third meeting between the boxers this year. The two clashed in the final of the Pan American Games Qualifier in April and the Pan American Games Lima 2019, with Cruz also winning those bouts.
The third — and fourth — meetings Davis has in mind are of equally high stakes.
Keyshawn Davis celebrates at the Panamerican Games Lima 2019 on July 30, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
In December, Davis will compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The winners from the 13 Olympic weight classes there advance to an Olympic qualifying event that will be held between January and May 2020.
Davis said he anticipates meeting Cruz next at the qualifying event.
“And then again in the Olympics,” he said. “So if everything works out, I should be fighting him two more times.”
It’s been quite a successful 2019 for Davis, who has been riding a lot of momentum since his first international win at the 2018 Strandja Tournament in Bulgaria.
Competing in Ekaterinburg — at his world championships debut — Davis held his own with Cruz, now a two-time world champion who has much more international experience, and he believes the head-to-head battles should help as he eyes Tokyo and a possible rematch with gold on the line.
As he works toward his Olympic goal, Davis said he’s benefited from having a good friend and mentor in Shakur Stevenson, who represented Team USA at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Nanjing 2014 and Olympic Games Rio 2016, winning a silver medal in the bantamweight division. Stevenson has experienced what Davis is going through in the Olympic qualifying process, so that advice and support is appreciated.
“He’s been a great mentor,” Davis said. “He’s most definitely one of the reasons why I’m at the level I’m at now. He keeps pushing me to the next level in this sport.
“And he’s taught me about how to carry myself, how to handle success and how to go about things outside of the ring as well — business-wise and preparing for the future. So he’s been a great mentor and friend.”
As the 2020 Olympic Games approach, expectations for Davis are high. And he wouldn’t have it any other way, as winning gold has certainly crossed his mind as he continues on his road to Japan.
“(Winning gold) would mean a lot, especially standing on top of that podium while the national anthem is being played on such a big stage,” he said, “so I’m definitely looking forward to it and being in another international event.”