Keyshawn Davis didn’t start out in 2021 believing he wouldn’t join the U.S. boxing team in Tokyo.
He is now the nation’s best marksman for a gold medal.
The blue-chip contender and number one ranking list of the American lightweight prevailed against Hovhannes Bachkov from Armenia and reached the men’s lightweight final on Friday afternoon in the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.
Davis won 29-27 on two cards and was the preferred winner on three cards, down 28-28 after three rounds. According to Olympic rules, any bout that does not end in a majority winner requires the judges who judge the bout to even determine an overall winner.
This makes Davis the first American lightweight since 1992 to shoot gold. The last one to do this was Oscar De La Hoya, who won everything in Barcelona.
Davis got off to a strong start and defeated the aggressive Bachkov cleanly in the opening round of the lightweight semi-finals between two professional boxers. Davis swept the first round in the eyes of all five jurors and with another one that got him into the last round.
That dream would have to wait at least three minutes.
In the second round, Davis deducted one point for holding, which Bachkov found a way to cut off the ring. It became increasingly difficult for Davis to resolve the Armenian’s forward-looking style, as reflected in the scorecards, with three of the five judges rating him in favor of Bachkov.
In the third and final round, the fight was still on the table. Davis reverted to what works best – outside power shots and then his superior hand and foot speed so as not to allow Bachkov to grab the momentum. It was more than enough to sweep the final lap and force three of the five judges to pick an overall winner.
Davis was initially kicked from the team after failing to register for mandatory training camp earlier this year. The US was ready to send just two men and five women to Tokyo, with Davis going pro where he holds a record of 3-0 (2KOs).
With the cancellation of the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier, the way American amateurs were allocated Olympic berths changed. Through his ranking with the Olympic Boxing Task Force (BTF) Davis was granted a place along with the other pros Duke Ragan and Troy Isley.
Four Olympic victories later, Davis is now fighting for gold. Its ascent to the lightweight final gives the US team three boxers who are guaranteed silver or better, the best Olympic champions in the country since the 1988 team that dominated Seoul, South Korea.
Davis opened the tournament with a three-round shutout against Dutchman Enrico La Cruz. The victory was followed by his repeated victory over the French Sofiane Oumiha, the number two seeded, which Davis stopped in the second round within two rounds. A narrow win over Gabil Mamedov (ROC) got Davis into the medal round, giving the US four medals in total, making the 2000 total for the team that fought in Sydney.
In the gold medal round, Davis expects longtime amateur archenemy Andy Cruz, who is 3-0 in his series.
Cuba’s Cruz dominated Australian Harry Garside in the semifinals, winning every round with all five cards. Cruz dropped a boxing clinic throughout the competition, forcing a standing eight on lap three to effortlessly advance into the final lap.
Garside wins Olympic bronze together with Bachkov.
Davis-Cruz takes place on August 8th.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox