LAKE CHARLES – Sunday was the culmination of years of preparation as Olympic dreams were brought to fruition. The 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing finals took place in Lake Charles, La., with three box-off bouts scheduled to conclude the event tomorrow.
Virginia Fuchs (Houston, Texas) completed her dominance of the women’s 112 lbs. division with a unanimous decision victory over Christina Cruz (Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y.) to claim her second Olympic Trials Championship. This was the second matchup of the tournament between the two. In the first meeting in the second round, Fuchs took home the unanimous decision win. In fact, Fuchs won every bout of these trials by unanimous decision. She joins Claressa Shields as the only female U.S. Boxers to win back-to-back Olympic trials.
“Being in the same category (as Shields) is an honor,” Fuchs said. “I feel like I’m a pioneer in women’s boxing and getting more equality. It’s a great honor to be a part of that movement.”
In the men’s 114 lbs. division, Abraham Perez (Albuquerque, N.M.) utilized prior knowledge gained from a previous fight with Anthony Herrera (Los Angeles, Calif.) to get the win and claim the championship. The two battled to a 3-2 decision in favor of Perez in the third round. Perez adapted to what he saw in that bout and turned it into a unanimous decision victory in the final.
“I’m happy,” Perez said. “There were a lot of sacrifices that I made. I’m glad those sacrifices weren’t for nothing. I’m excited.”
Lupe Gutierrez (Sacramento, Calif.) pulled the first upset of the evening by handing Andrea Medina (San Diego, Calif.) her first loss of the tournament by a 3-2 decision to force a box-off tomorrow. With the win, Gutierrez avenged a third-round loss to Medina, also a close 3-2 split that could have gone either way. The two have proven to be an even matchup. Sunday, Gutierrez had the edge she needed to stay alive and earn one more shot at the championship.
From the eight seed to the top, Bruce Carrington (Brooklyn, N.Y.) never lost on his journey to become champion of the men’s 125 lbs. division. Carrington punctuated his climb to the top by winning by unanimous decision over David Navarro (Los Angeles, Calif.) in the final. He started with a 3-2 win over top seed Duke Ragan (Cincinnati, Ohio) and never looked back, scoring 4-1 decisions in the next two fights to prove he deserved to be considered the best.
“Nobody worked harder than me,” Carrington said. “Nobody dealt with the things I had to go through. There were a lot of obstacles these last four years. No matter the seed, nobody had anything for me in this weight division.”
Rashida Ellis (Lynn, Mass.) left no doubt as the top competitor in the women’s 132 lbs. division. She won every bout by unanimous decision, including in the finals against Amelia Moore (Alexandria, Va.). This adds to an already successful year for Ellis, who won bronze in both the 2019 World Championships and the 2019 Pan American Games.
“I just had to push myself harder,” Ellis said. “I’ve fought most of these girls, I just had to pick it up a little more.”
In the men’s 138 lbs. division, Keyshawn Davis (Norfolk, Va.) earned the championship without breaking a sweat. His opponent, Ernesto Mercado (Pomona, Calif.), was a medical disqualification, so Davis won by walkover. That’s not to say Davis didn’t earn his belt. He bested Marcell Davidson, Charlie Sheehy and Harley Mederos to prove that he was amongst the elite of the weight class.
Oshae Jones (Toledo, Ohio) completed her reign of terror on the women’s 152 lbs. division with a convincing unanimous decision win over Briana Che (Madison, Wisc.) in the finals. Jones won every bout of this tournament by unanimous decision. The 2019 Pan American Games gold medalist never let her foot off the gas as she torched her opponents on her way to the belt.
“My confidence was already on ten,” Jones said. “I was excited, I had my family with me. I’m on cloud nine, I’m on cloud on hundred right now.”
In the men’s 152 lbs. division, Delante “Tiger” Johnson (Cleveland, Ohio) would not be denied the belt as he fended off Freudis Rojas Jr. (Las Vegas, Nev.) in a 4-1 decision bout to claim the championship. Johnson got off to a hot start in the trials, winning his first two bouts by unanimous decision. The semifinals provided the first semblance of a challenge in a 4-1 decision win over Kelvin Davis (Norfolk, Va.), but Johnson prevailed each time as he secured the championship without losing a bout.
“My confidence is very high,” Johnson said. “I’ve trained hard for this and it finally paid off. I’ll be ready for our next tournament. I don’t think any achievement tops this. This is the biggest thing ever.”
To decide the winner of the women’s 165 lbs. division, Naomi Graham (Fayetteville, N.C.) and Morelle McCane (Cleveland, Ohio) competed in a rematch that wasn’t a rematch. The two were schedule to fight Friday in the semifinals, but a scheduling mishap by McCane resulted in a walkover win for Graham. Graham left no doubt in the actual fight on Sunday, however, as she rolled to a unanimous decision victory and the championship.
“It feels amazing to be at this point,” Graham said. “I’m at a loss for words. I knew I could do it, I believe in myself. To actually do it is a whole nother feeling.
Joseph Hicks (Grand Rapids, Mich.) was the second boxer from the challenger’s bracket to get a win Sunday as he prevailed in a 3-2 decision over Javier Martinez (Milwaukee, Wisc). This was a rematch of a second-round bout from Wednesday. Last time, Martinez won by unanimous decision. Sunday was a different story. Hicks will have to keep this momentum rolling to earn the belt as the third edition of this matchup will take place tomorrow.
“Not redemption yet,” Hicks said. “Tomorrow, I have to finish it. We are one-and-one. Tomorrow, it’s winner take all. He beat me last time with his pressure. Tonight, I said, “I’m not gonne let him push me.’ Most of the fight I did that.”
In the men’s 178 lbs. division, Rahim Gonzales (Las Vegas, Nev.) completed his romp through the weight class with a 4-1 decision over Atif Olberton (Philadelphia, Pa.). This was Olberton’s second shot at Gonzales after suffering a unanimous decision loss in the semifinals. In the end, Gonzales proved to be too much for the competition. The final was Gonzales’ only bout not decided by unanimous decision.
“I’m tired but I pushed through,” Gonzales said. “I’m just excited. Very honored to have a chance with the U.S. Olympic team. Now I’ll go get that gold medal.”
The third and final bout for Monday was confirmed in the men’s 201 lbs. division when Jamar Talley (Camden, N.J.) defeated Darius Fulghum (Rosharon, Texas) by unanimous decision to stay alive in the tournament. The bout was a rematch of the semifinals, a 3-2 decision in favor of Fulghum. This time, Talley left no doubt as he battered Fulghum and forced the box-off.
“I had to bring the dog out of me,” Talley said. “In the last couple of fights, I tried to show technical skill but, at the end of the day, you can’t rely on that. In that first fight with Darius, it came to a split decision. Today, unanimous. Why? Because I dug deep. I didn’t rely on skill, I relied on sheer heart and willpower.”
From unranked a year ago to the top of his weight class, Antonio Mireles (Des Moines, Iowa) secured the championship of the men’s 201+ lbs. division with a unanimous decision win over Jeremiah Milton (Tulsa, Okla.). The final decision was deceiving. The two behemoths seemed equal as they exchanged blows. In the end, Mireles had more gas in the tank and outlasted Milton. Mireles won every bout this tournament by unanimous decision, including one over Milton in the semifinals.
“He caught me off guard in the first round,” Mireles said. “He was more collected. I had to think more. I just tried to push the pace.”
For most of the boxers, this brings an end their experience in Lake Charles. At both the Lake Charles Civic Center and Golden Nugget Casino and Resort, the red carpet was laid out for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing. The memories in the ring will last a lifetime, and the competitors were thankful for the opportunity to perform.
“It was awesome,” Jones said. “Everywhere I went, even my hotel, people were supporting me. It’s been so amazing. That support is what you need to succeed here. The work tears at you. That keeps you up.”
There are three box-off bouts scheduled from tomorrow at the Golden Nugget Casino and Resort. Competition will begin at noon. Follow USA Boxing on social media, as well as the #BoxingTrials20 website, to stay up to date on all the boxing action.