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

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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

Christine Ongare, pregnant at 12, qualifies for Olympic boxing at 26

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Christine Ongare, a Kenyan boxer who became pregnant at age 12, just qualified for the Olympics at age 26.

Ongare took third in the 51kg flyweight division at an African Olympic qualifier where three Olympic spots were available. Ongare, a 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist, is headed to Tokyo.

Ongare, speaking to the Olympic Channel, said that when she became pregnant, the help she had came in the form of her mom — a single parent herself.

“So, my mum took the responsibility of raising my child,” she said, according to the report. “So even my child knows my mum as their mother.”

Ongare described herself as “a ghetto girl” who came from an area of Kenya where girls give birth at very young ages out of desperation.

“I was a small child. It was just peer pressure, to try something and then it ruins you,” she said. “I have gone through a tough life, so hard. It’s just that I don’t like talking about it.”

Ongare said that her mom helped her get back to school, but they didn’t have money.

“Boxing is all I have,” she said in the Olympic Channel interview before she qualified. “It is said when you fall down, you must rise up again.

“There is no other place I can get money, take a loan without interest. So if I qualify for the Olympics, it will open doors. It will help me a lot.”

MORE: Pioneering women’s boxer retires due to eye concern

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Coronavirus forces Olympic soccer and boxing qualifiers to move

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Olympic qualifying events in two sports were moved from the Chinese city of Wuhan on Wednesday because of an outbreak of a deadly viral illness.

A four-nation Asian qualifying group for the women’s soccer tournament was switched from the city at the center of the health scare to Nanjing.

The Asia-Oceania boxing qualifying tournament scheduled for Feb. 3-14 in Wuhan was cancelled. No new plans were announced.

The decisions followed Chinese health authorities telling people in Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings.

The Asian Football Confederation said the round-robin group — featuring host China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand — will be played on Feb. 3-9, retaining the same dates, in Nanjing.

More than 500 people have been infected and at least 17 killed since the outbreak emerged last month. The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus.

Cases have also been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. All involve people from Wuhan or who recently traveled there.

In the soccer qualifiers in China, two teams advance to a four-nation playoff round in March. That will decide which two teams from Asia join host Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.

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