U.S.’ top amateur boxer mulls giving up Olympic dream

Keyshawn Davis
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The vast majority of Olympic hopefuls will continue on for the Tokyo Games in 2021. The U.S.’ top boxer at last year’s world championships said he might not.

Such is the conundrum in boxing, the rare sport where going pro usually means giving up an Olympic dream.

Keyshawn Davis, the world silver medalist in the lightweight division, remains undecided whether to start fighting professionally or wait another year for what would likely be his one and only Olympics.

“The Olympics is most definitely huge, I’m not going to lie,” Davis said earlier this week on BBC Radio. “My whole life, you can basically say I’ve been training for the Olympics. Because all my life I’ve been amateur and fighting amateur. The biggest pedestal [in amateur boxing] is the Olympics. Since I almost got there and had it taken away from me [in 2020], it’s most definitely a big life switch, a life-changing moment, honestly.”

Davis said then that he was 70 percent sure he would turn pro. Later on Thursday, he preferred not to put a percentage on his decision. He plans to announce his decision early next week, perhaps as early as Monday, on his Instagram.

“I’ve been talking to my family about it,” Davis said by phone Thursday. “The decision probably wouldn’t take that long.”

Davis, a 21-year-old from Virginia, was to fight to qualify for the Olympics in Buenos Aires this weekend. That Americas qualifier was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic that halted global sports and postponed the Olympics until next year.

Davis is the middle brother in a set of fighters (older Kelvin and younger Keon). His silver at worlds matched the best Olympic or world finish for a U.S. male boxer since 2007.

Boxing’s biggest names fight no more than a few times per year. That kind of life conflicts with amateur boxing. Davis fought five times in eight days at the world championships in September. While boxing opened a qualification path for professionals in the last Olympic cycle, the world’s top fighters didn’t cross over.

A FiveThirtyEight study using statistics from Olympedia and the OlyMADMen showed 87 percent of Olympic boxers do not return for a second Games. Only soccer has a higher one-and-done rate. Olympic men’s soccer is largely restricted to under-23 players, meaning veteran World Cup stars typically do not compete in the Olympics.

“A whole ‘nother year, man. I don’t feel like I have to wait for that, honestly,” Davis said. “I feel like within that time frame, if I do turn pro, I can give myself four to five fights within that year. With a big signing bonus, so I can be way more comfortable than what I am now. I feel like the Olympics, it can put you on a higher pedestal, but not that much higher.”

Davis said he is not struggling financially. And he also can’t predict when professional boxing will return, clouding his decision-making.

One of his role models is 2016 Olympic bantamweight silver medalist Shakur Stevenson. They’ve known each other since their early teens. Stevenson brought Davis to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as a sparring partner before the Rio Games.

Stevenson, the 2013 World junior champion at 16 and the 2014 Youth Olympic champion, said he considered going pro rather than a Rio Olympic run. Though Stevenson tearfully lost the Rio Olympic final, he doesn’t regret it and believes that it helped his career in the long run.

But a one-year delay?

“That’s a whole different type of situation,” said Stevenson, who is 13-0 as a pro and the WBO featherweight champion. “It’s hard to tell what I would do in that situation. … That’s a real difficult decision. Only thing I will say is that even pros right now, they’re not even really getting fights. Even going professional probably would be a decision that’s not too really smart right now.”

Stevenson had a fight planned at Madison Square Garden two weeks ago that had to be canceled.

“Whatever decision [Davis] makes, he’s going to be straight,” Stevenson said. “He’s a hell of a fighter.”

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier win U.S. figure skating pairs’ title in possible final nationals

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier haven’t decided if they’ll compete beyond this season, so Saturday may have been their farewell to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

If so, they went out as dominant winners, the first pair in their 30s to win nationals in more than 50 years.

Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, took their second U.S. title together, totaling 227.97 points to prevail by 31.11 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe. They led by a gaping 15.1 points after Thursday’s short.

Knierim and Frazier were solid after errors on their opening jumping combination in Saturday’s free skate. They broke their own pairs’ margin of victory record from the 2021 U.S. Championships under a scoring system implemented in 2006. Knierim appeared to wipe away tears backstage.

“As I get older, the longer I’m in this sport, the more gratitude I have for it,” Knierim, the oldest woman to win a U.S. figure skating title since 1995 (Renée Roca), said on USA Network. “After that music ended, I’m just thankful that Brandon’s by my side and I’m able to do what I love.”

Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea bagged bronze to likely round out the three-pair team for March’s world championships.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Knierim and Frazier considered retiring after last season, after they missed nationals due to Frazier’s COVID-19, petitioned onto the Olympic team and posted the best Olympic finish for a U.S. pair (sixth) in 20 years.

They then became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, beating a field that didn’t include any of the top five from the Olympics.

They returned in part to compete as world champions and rank second in the world this season (during which the top Olympic pairs also haven’t competed). They will likely go into March’s worlds in Japan as underdogs to Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who won their lone head-to-head this past fall at the Grand Prix Final.

Back in October, Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“This U.S. Championships for us was extra special because you’re just reflecting on the journey, and you know that there’s a good chance that this will be your last one,” Frazier said.

Knierim won her fifth U.S. title, tying the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka InaTai BabiloniaRandy GardnerKarol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Silver medalists Chan and Howe continued their recent surge. After placing fourth at last season’s nationals, they rank sixth in the world this season. That’s despite summer injuries that left them unable to practice lifts (his shoulder) and throws (her foot) for a while.

Kam, 18, and O’Shea, 31, made the podium four months after becoming a pair and less than two months after a car Kim was riding in was hit by a drunk driver while crossing an intersection. The car was totaled, but Kim and O’Shea still competed days later in Croatia.

O’Shea won the 2016 U.S. title with Tarah Kayne, retired after they split in late 2020, then came back in 2021 with Chelsea Liu. They ranked sixth in the U.S. going into 2022 Nationals, but withdrew beforehand due to concussions both suffered in a November competition fall, according to Figure Skaters Online.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Women
Gold: Isabeau Levito — 223.33
Silver: Bradie Tennell — 213.12
Bronze: Amber Glenn — 207.44
4. Starr Andrews — 188.24
5. Josephine Lee — 187.68
6. Lindsay Thorngren — 187.19
7. Clare Seo — 175.60
8. Gracie Gold — 173.98
9. Ava Ziegler — 167.70
10. Sonja Hilmer — 166.49
11. Gabriella Izzo — 166.40
12. Ting Cui — 161.27
13. Audrey Shin — 161.12
14. Lindsay Wang — 154.91
15. Michelle Lee — 145.28
16. Elsa Cheng — 138.13
17. Alexa Gasparotto — 129.41
WD. Hanna Harrell

Men’s Short Program
1. Ilia Malinin — 110.36
2. Jason Brown — 100.25
3. Tomoki Hiwatashi — 85.43
4. Liam Kapeikis — 82.27
5. Andrew Torgashev — 78.78
6. Maxim Naumov — 77.71
7. Jimmy Ma — 73.88
8. Goku Endo — 73.45
9. Samuel Mindra — 71.36
10. Yaroslav Paniot — 70.87
11. Camden Pulkinen — 69.47
12. Matthew Nielsen — 67.98
13. Joonsoo Kim — 67.45
14. Daniel Martynov — 64.04
15. Will Annis — 63.46
16. Dinh Tran — 60.63
17. Mitchell Friess — 59.14
18. Joseph Klein — 58.38

Pairs
Gold: Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 227.97
Silver: Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 196.86

Bronze: Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea — 184.01
4. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 179.08
5. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 176.34
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 172.74
7. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 148.84
8. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 137.98
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 135.30
10. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 132.07
11. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 129.80

Ice Dance
Gold: Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 229.75
Silver: Caroline Green/Michael Parsons — 207.46
Bronze: Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko — 198.45
4. Emilea Zingas/Vadym Kolesnik — 198.13
5. Emily Bratti/Ian Somerville — 189.84
6. Lorraine McNamara/Anton Spiridonov — 189.15
7. Katarina Wolfkostin/Jeffrey Chen — 183.05
8. Eva Pate/Logan Bye — 182.61
9. Oona Brown/Gage Brown — 181.89
10. Isabella Flores/Ivan Desyatov — 177.31
11. Angela Ling/Caleb Wein — 167.87
12. Leah Krauskopf/YuanShi Jin — 133.93
13. Cara Murphy/Joshua Levitt — 129.85
14. Caroline Depietri/TJ Carey — 123.40
WD. Raffaella Koncius/Alexey Shchepetov

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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