Team USA Starts the 2020 Strandja Tournament with 11 Victories

By Brian Taylor, USA Boxing | Jan. 21, 2020, 3:47 p.m. (ET)

Team USA started off slow on the first day of competition at the 2020 Standja Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, but picked it up to finish the day 11-6 during the three sessions of action-packed boxing.

Naomi Graham (Fayetteville, N.C.), the reigning Strandja middleweight champion, picked up right where she left off at last year’s tournament with a 3-2 victory over Elena Gapeshina of Russia to take the first victory for the American team. Graham will have a day of rest before returning to the ring on Thursday to face a familiar foe, Panama’s Atheyna Bylon.

2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing middleweight champion Javier Martinez (Milwaukee, Wis.) continued Team USA’s winning ways with a dominate and impressive performance to take all five judges cards over India’s Ankit Khatana. Martinez will have a quick return to the ring, as he will go head-to-head against Pankou Vadzim of Belarus tomorrow.

Super heavyweight Richard Torrez Jr. (Tulare, Calif.) closed out the first of three sessions today with a dominating performance over Narender of India, leading to a 5-0 decision. Torrez, who won last year’s Strandja Tournament, as well as earned Boxer of the Tournament honors, has a day of rest before taking on Danis Latypov of Brunei.

Flyweight Christina Cruz (Hells Kitchen, N.Y.) returned to the international stage in impressive fashion to take all five judges’ cards against Poland’s Sandra Drabek in the second session of the day. Cruz will be looking to continue the momentum in tomorrow’s bout against Bulgarian Zlatislava Chukanova.

A trio of welterweights, Oshae Jones (Toledo, Ohio), Delante Johnson (Cleveland, Ohio) and Freudis Rojas Jr. (Dallas, Texas) put on a show on their way to their respective victories. Jones grabbed a 4-1 decision over Germany’s Nadine Apetz, while Johnson took his own 4-1 victory over Olympian Vinenzo Mangiacapre of Italy. Rojas won his bout by unanimous decision against Abdullah Fadhul of Brunei.

Jones will have a day of rest, while Johnson and Rojas will take to the ring tomorrow against Aidan Walsh of Ireland and Wahid Hambli of France, respectively.

Both male flyweights, Anthony Herrera (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Abraham Perez (Albuquerque, N.M.), showed they both want the one spot to advance to the Olympic Qualification tournaments. Herrera stayed busy in all three rounds in his international debut to take a unanimous decision victory over Yauheni Karmilchyk of Belarus, while Perez pulled out the 3-2 decision against Dmytro Zamotayev of Ukraine. They both will have a rest day before competing on Thursday.

Light heavyweights Rahim Gonzalez (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Atif Oberlton (Philadelphia, Pa.) grabbed the final two wins for Team USA in the third sessions of the day. Gonzalez grabbed the unanimous decision win in his international debut against Simone Fiori of Italy, while Oberlton had a hard-fought battle to take the decision on a 3-2 split over Gazi Jalidov of Spain. Both will step into the ring once again tomorrow.

Team USA saw six boxers fall short of advancing to the next round, with most coming by way of close split decisions. Bruce Carrington (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Briana Che (Madison, Wis. and Lupe Gutierrez (Sacramento, Calif.) fell just short by way of 3-2, while Morelle McCane (Cleveland, Ohio) and Jamar Talley (Camden, N.J.) took 4-1 losses. Antonio Mireles (Des Moines, Iowa) lost his international debut by a unanimous decision.

A total of 13 boxers will take to the ring tomorrow, in one of the three sessions. Rashida Ellis (Lynn, Mass.), Virginia Fuchs (Houston, Texas), Amelia Moore (Alexandria, Va.) and David Navarro (Los Angeles, Calif.) return to the international stage tomorrow, while Darius Fulghum (Houston, Texas), Joseph Hicks (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and Andrea Medina (San Diego, Calif.) will make their international debuts.

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