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U.S. Olympic boxing team closer to being named after trials

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A U.S. Olympic boxing team that will be exclusively first-time Olympians is closer to being named.

A total of 27 boxers advanced from the Olympic trials in a complicated process that will likely be finalized at a last-chance global qualifying tournament in May in Paris.

Before that, every Olympic trials finalist from the eight men’s divisions and five women’s divisions goes into the new year with a chance at the Tokyo Games. Plus super heavyweight Richard Torrez Jr., who missed trials with a medical exemption.

But the U.S. is not guaranteed any Olympic boxing spots.

A training camp and international tournament in January will determine the one boxer per division (13 total) who will then compete internationally to clinch an Olympic berth.

Each may get two chances to qualify — a North and South American tournament in Buenos Aires from March 26-April 3 and the global event in Paris two weeks later.

The best U.S. Olympic medal hopes include flyweight Ginny Fuchs, who won her second straight trials title. Four years ago, Fuchs failed to secure her spot at the Rio Games in international qualifiers.

Instead, she went to Brazil as a sparring partner for qualified U.S. women and couldn’t bear to watch the Opening Ceremony from off-site. Fuchs, a 2018 World bronze medalist, skipped this year’s world championships to manage obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Keyshawn Davis was the only U.S. male or female boxer to make a final in an Olympic division at the world championships this year, taking lightweight silver. Davis, 20, won trials after his scheduled final opponent missed the bout for medical reasons.

None of the more than 100 boxers who competed at trials at the Golden Nugget Casino and Resort in Lake Charles, La., had Olympic experience. Stars from Rio, including gold medalist Claressa Shields and silver medalist Shakur Stevenson, have turned pro.

A full list of the 27 boxers who advanced from trials:

Men
Flyweight
Abraham Perez (trials champion)
Anthony Herrera

Featherweight
Bruce Carrington (trials champion)
David Navarro

Lightweight
Keyshawn Davis (trials champion)
Ernesto Mercado

Welterweight
Delante “Tiger” Johnson (trials champion)
Freudis Rojas Jr.

Middleweight (Monday box-off)
Joseph Hicks
Javier Martinez

Light Heavyweight
Rahim Gonzales (trials champion)
Atif Olberton

Heavyweight (Monday box-off)
Jamar Talley
Darius Fulghum

Super Heavyweight
Antonio Mireles (trials champion)
Jeremiah Milton
Richard Torrez Jr. (medical exemption)

Women
Flyweight
Ginny Fuchs (trials champion)
Christina Cruz

Featherweight (Monday box-off)
Lupe Gutierrez
Andrea Medina

Lightweight
Rashida Ellis (trials champion)
Amelia Moore

Welterweight
Oshae Jones (trials champion)
Briana Che

Middleweight
Naomi Graham (trials champion)
Morelle McCane

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Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

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Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Ginny Fuchs hopes to emerge from OCD, tearful Olympic experience

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None of the boxers at this week’s U.S. Olympic Trials competed at a prior Olympics, but flyweight Ginny Fuchs remembers the specifics of her one Olympic experience in Rio.

Fuchs, who won the 2016 Olympic trials but failed to clinch a spot at the Games in international qualifiers, was nonetheless named team captain and brought to Rio as a sparring partner.

She had mixed feelings. Watching from the crowd as Claressa Shields repeated as Olympic champion on the final day of the Games was motivating. Fuchs had toyed with turning professional but, after talking to Shields, decided to forge another four years as an amateur for another chance to become an Olympian.

The Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony, two weeks before that Shields final, was too much for Fuchs to bear. She could not stay in the Athletes’ Village nor march with the U.S. delegation at the Maracana.

“I remember watching the Opening Ceremony at the place I was at with everybody,” she said. “I couldn’t watch. It was hard for me to watch. I went back to my room, cried and went to bed.”

Fuchs is favored to win the 51kg/112-pound division this week at Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Lake Charles, La., with finals streaming live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday (4-7 p.m. ET). It’s one of five women’s Olympic weight classes, up from three in 2012 and 2016, the first two editions of the Games for female boxers.

No boxer can clinch an Olympic spot this week, but failing to make a final would all but end Tokyo hopes.

Fuchs’ toughest opponent in this Olympic cycle — which included an undefeated 2017 and a 2018 World bronze medal among more than 130 fights — may be herself. Fuchs has been open about struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It started in fifth grade.

“I can remember the first time I was on the school bus, and I was looking at the ground and looking at everybody’s backpacks on the floor,” said Fuchs, a 31-year-old from the Houston area. “And an instant thought came in mind, like, Oh my god. Everybody’s backpack is getting contaminated by this dirty floor on the bus.”

She cited a more recent example: spending up to 40 minutes washing her hands searching for that “perfect clean feeling.” Fuchs found boxing via a boyfriend after she was kicked off the LSU cross-country running team as a freshman walk-on for damaging school property in a prank.

She said the disorder hit her hardest this year. In January, she was driving to a Walmart three times a day to buy cleaning supplies, according to The New York Times.

She underwent intensive therapy and skipped October’s world championships, where she could have established herself as a clear Olympic gold-medal favorite.

“I still am going to probably do therapy for the rest of my life,” Fuchs said. “Maybe not as intense as I’m doing it right now, but it’s almost like training for boxing.

“You’ve got to keep training to keep winning in boxing. So I’ve got to keep training my OCD thoughts and how to handle and manage it. … Boxing is giving me hope almost. Like OK, outside the ring and in my room and the bathroom, I feel like [OCD] controls me and feel trapped. But I have this environment in this space in the gym, in the boxing ring, where I can be myself. And not let it attack me in a way where I can still enjoy life and not be trapped.”

Should Fuchs make the final of her division in Lake Charles, she will advance to a January camp and tournament, after which the U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying will be named.

If selected, Fuchs would head to a North and South American Olympic qualifying event in early spring in Buenos Aires to clinch the spot she could not secure four years ago. If necessary, she could get a second chance at a global qualifier in May in Paris.

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