LAKE CHARLES – Stakes were high Saturday as the boxers faced elimination in the last round of the challenger’s bracket. The winners advanced to the finals while the losers will have to try again in the next Olympic trials. Here’s who confirmed their place in the finals.
In the women’s 165 lbs. division, Morelle McCane (Cleveland, Ohio) used a patient approach to get a 4-1 decision win over Alexis Gomez (South San Francisco, Calif.) and advance to the finals. She waited for Gomez to make a mistake and struck when the opportunity was best. With the win, she earns another shot at Naomi Graham (Fayetteville, N.C.). The two were scheduled to fight yesterday but McCane missed the bout because of a scheduling mix-up.
“I fought my fight,” McCane said. “I took control of the ring. I’m fired up and ready to go. Boxing is adding to yourself every day. I’m just building. No let up.”
Lupe Gutierrez (Sacramento, Calif.) proved to be too much for Isamary Aquino (Universal City, Texas) as she handed her both of her losses in the women’s 125 lbs. division of these trials. Gutierrez won the rematch by 4-1 decision. She advances to the finals for another rematch, this time against Andrea Medina (San Diego, Calif.). Medina beat Gutierrez last night in a close 3-2 decision. Gutierrez will need to beat Medina twice to secure a spot in the Olympics.
“I’m feeling great,” Gutierrez said. “I know I took that loss but I’m ready to get the win back. I’m ready for it.
It’s unusual to have unanimous decisions in high-stakes bouts like these, but that’s exactly how Joseph Hicks (Grand Rapids, Mic.) beat Troy Isley (Alexandra, Va.) to advance to the finals. This sets up a rematch with Javier Martinez (Milwaukee, Wisc.), who beat Hicks by unanimous decision in the second round.
“Today was the best I’ve felt in a long, long time,” Hicks said. “Troy is a really good kid and a really great fighter. As for Javier, I figured some things out about him. He’s another great fighter, but I have some things figured out.”
Jeremiah Milton (Tulsa, Okla.) of the men’s 201+ lbs. division followed the trend Hicks set by defeating Luis Alvarado (Kenosha, Wisc.) by unanimous decision. It was a rematch of the second round, a 4-1 decision win by Milton. Milton will have to take this strong performance into tomorrow’s bout with Antonio Mireles (Des Moines, Iowa), who’s dominated this tournament and won every bout by unanimous decision.
“What I noticed about this tournament is that you have to hit more gears,” Milton said. “Every day you have to bring another gear. It’s Olympic trials. Everyone is trying to get to that spot. You have to make those adjustments on the fly. I knew I’d get here because I dedicated myself.”
In the women’s 132 lbs. division, Amelia Moore (Alexandria, Va.) avenged a 3-2 second-round loss to Kimberly Carlson (Chicago, Ill.) with a 4-1 decision victory to advance to the finals. There, she’ll have to get past top-seed Rashida Ellis (Lynn, Mass.).
“I had a clear mind,” Moore said. “That’s been pretty much the mantra over the last few days since Wednesday. I listened to my corner with a clear mind and was calm. We made the adjustments we needed to make and came back and got the ‘W’ back. That was really important to me.”
It’s been a light tournament so far for Anthony Herrera (Los Angeles, Calif.). He won two of his fights by walkover and had his first fight only yesterday. That extra rest might have been the difference in a tight 3-2 decision win over Roscoe Hill (Spring, Texas) to advance to the final. There, he’ll meet Abraham Perez (Albuquerque, N.M.) for a rematch. On Friday, Perez won in a 3-2 decision. Tomorrow should be another close one.
“As compared to yesterday, I think I shook off a little bit of ring rust,” Herrera said. “I had two walkovers, which was a shocker because that doesn’t usually happen in tournaments like these. I’m feeling better today, I’m feeling strong. I stuck to the game plan and tomorrow, I’ll be ready.”
Christina Cruz (Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y.) earned herself another shot at the top seed in the women’s 112 lbs. division, Virginia Fuchs (Houston, Texas), with a 4-1 decision victory over Heaven Garcia (Los Angeles, Calif.). Cruz and Fuchs met back in the second round, a unanimous decision in favor of Fuchs. Cruz is looking forward to another shot at a familiar foe.
“Very excited,” Cruz said. “I get to button up what I didn’t do in the last fight so I’m very excited to fix those little things and hopefully get the win.”
Regardless of who won in the men’s 178 lbs. division, there was sure to be a tough road to the championship. Awaiting in the finals is Rahim Gonzales (Las Vegas, Nev.), who had defeated both competitors in Saturday’s bout by unanimous decision. In the end, it was Atif Oberlton (Philadelphia, Pa.) who defeated Orville Crooks (Brooklyn, N.Y.) by a 3-2 decision to confirm the rematch.
“I’m working hard and listening to my corner,” Oberlton said. “I don’t second guess them. When they tell me to do something, I do it. It’s all about staying smart and being myself.”
In the men’s 125 lbs. division, David Navarro (Los Angeles, Calif.) completed his comeback from a surprising first-round loss by defeating Rashiem Jefferson (Philadelphia, Pa.) by a 4-1 decision to advance to the final. Waiting for Navarro is Bruce Carrington (Brooklyn, N.Y.), the eight-seed that has stormed through the trials.
“My first loss really opened my eyes,” Navarro said. “I just wasn’t ready for it. Now, I’m getting ready and I’m ready for the next round. I’ve been dreaming of this ever since I was a kid and it’s happening.”
Jamar Talley (Camden, N.J.) got himself back into the winner’s bracket with a 3-1 decision win over Brandon Moore (Lakeland, Fla.) in the men’s 201 lbs. division. This sets up a rematch with Darius Fulghum (Rosharon, Texas). Yesterday, Fulghum got the best of Talley in a close 3-2 decision. Talley thinks he know what it will take to get the win tomorrow.
“To get it done, I gotta do what I did yesterday, but a hundred times more because yesterday wasn’t as good as it was supposed to be where I would have won,” Talley said.
The men’s 152 lbs. division top seed Freudis Rojas (Las Vegas, Nev.) took another step in his journey back to the top after a first-round loss with close a 3-2 decision win over Kelvin Davis (Norfolk, Va.). The win sets up a powerhouse matchup with Delante “Tiger” Johnson (Cleveland, Ohio) in the finals. Johnson has dominated the weight class thus far in the tournament but has yet to face the top-seeded Rojas.
“My battle isn’t over,” Rojas said. “I’m here to show that, even though I lost on the first day, I’m still in this tournament. I’m going to make the biggest comeback. I have a game plan, I’ll come out with the win that day.
Briana Che (Madison, Wisc.), the eight seed in the women’s 152 lbs. division, kept her winning streak alive with a 4-1 decision victory over Danyelle Wolf (San Diego, Calif.). The win sets up a rematch with Oshae Jones (Toledo, Ohio). Back in the first round, Jones beat Che by unanimous decision.
“I always say that sometimes you have to get knocked down and fall forward,” Che said. “That’s my motto. I picked myself up and reevaluated. I can only beat myself. My toughest opponent is myself. I just have to make the right decisions.”
In the men’s 138 lbs. division, Ernesto Mercado (Pomona, Calif.) earned a trip to the finals with a 4-1 victory over Charlie Sheehy (Brisbane, Calif.). Mercado is on a four-bout winning streak after losing in the first round. He’ll hope to carry that momentum into a matchup with top seeded Keyshawn Davis (Norfolk, Va.).
“The first day, I fell short,” Mercado said. “I learned from it. We’ve been picking it up day by day. I feel like tomorrow’s going to be a way better day for me.
Tomorrow’s finals will take place at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino at 3 p.m. CST. Sunday isn’t the absolute end of the trials, however. If a boxer experiences their first loss in the finals, there would be a rematch the following day at noon. Click here to access the live stream for tomorrow's bouts.