Six Team USA Boxers Punch Ticket to Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
by Brian Taylor, USA Boxing
The Boxing Task Force (BTF) announced today the 49 quota places, originally to be awarded at the Road to Tokyo Americas Qualifier, that were awarded to boxers to compete in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 this summer. The quota places included six Team USA boxers, which was based off the BTF Rankings.
“These six boxers have been staples within our program and have established themselves amongst the world’s best by their performances during the past quad,” stated USA Boxing High Performance Director Matt Johnson. “Now it is time for them to perform at the world’s biggest stage in Tokyo.”
Representing Team USA at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, pending United States Olympic & Paralympic Commitee approval, will be Rashida Ellis (Lynn, Mass.) Virginia Fuchs (Houston, Texas), Naomi Graham (Fayetteville, N.C.), Delante Johnson (Cleveland, Ohio), Oshae Jones (Toledo, Ohio) and Richard Torrez Jr. (Tulare, Calif.). All six boxers will be competing in their first Olympic Games.
2019 Elite Women’s World Championships bronze medalist Ellis will compete in the women’s lightweight (132 lbs./60 kg) division. Ellis won bronze at the 2019 Pan American Games to add to her BTF rankings to solidify her position in Tokyo as the second highest ranked America’s boxer and 12th overall in her weight class. Ellis will be looking to win Team USA’s first women’s lightweight Olympic medal.
“Qualifying for the Olympics has been one of my deepest dreams,” mentioned Ellis. “I never doubt my ability. I have stopped being afraid of what could go wrong and start being excited about what could go right. So, I embrace my mistakes and learn from them, as my mistakes have helped me improve and reach the Olympics. I don’t do easy; I make things happen. The hard work and dedication with effort and determination, I can succeed.”
Fuchs will represent Team USA in the flyweight division (112 lbs./51 kg). The 33-year-old will be looking to earn USA Boxing its second medal in the women’s flyweight division since the introduction of the event in London 2012. Fuchs brings an impressive resume to the ring, including a bronze medal at the 2018 Elite Women’s World Championships and silver medal from the 2019 Pan American Games, which places her as the second highest America’s flyweight boxer and 16th overall in the BTF rankings.
“I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time. I am so excited I can finally call myself an Olympian,” stated Fuchs. “With all this world has been through and having to postpone the Olympics a whole year, I am proud to say I am one of the participants in what will be known as the most recognized Olympics in history. I am ready to represent my country in the most respected way and bring home the gold!”
2019 Pan American Games Graham is the highest seeded America’s female middleweight (165 lbs./75 kg) boxer in the BTF rankings, where she currently sits eighth overall. Graham earned points from her Pan American Games title, as well as her third-place finish at the 2018 Elite Women’s World Championships and top five finish at the 2019 edition. Graham, who will become USA Boxing’s first active female military member to compete in an Olympic Games, will be in contention to grab Team USA’s third straight Olympic gold medal in the women’s middleweight division.
“It feels unreal that I am going to the Olympics,” Graham stated when talking about earning her place to Tokyo. “I continue to surprise myself by finding my own limits, and then having the courage to blow past them.”
Jones will step into the ring in one of the two newly added women’s weight classes, the welterweight (152 lbs./69 kg) division. Jones, who made history in 2019 with her gold medal performance at the Pan American Games, will look to continue making history by becoming the first Olympic gold medalists in her weight division. The 23-year-old added valuable points to her rankings with her top five placement at the 2019 Elite Women’s World Championships to finish as the top America’s boxer and seventh in the overall BTF rankings for the welterweight division to punch her ticket to the Olympics.
“I may only take up one spot, but my one spot represents so much,” shared Jones. “I’m beyond grateful for the chance to represent women, African Americans, my small city of Toledo, but most importantly, my country.”
The second Ohioan to represent Team USA, Johnson, extends the streak of Cleveland-native boxing Olympians to four, following in the footsteps of Charles Conwell (2016), Terrell Gausha (2012) and Raynell Williams (2008). The welterweight (152 lbs./69 kg), who first caught the attention of the boxing world with his gold medal performance at the 2016 Youth World Championships, earned his ranking points through his bronze medal finish at the 2019 Pan American Games and top 16 placement at the 2019 Elite World Championships. Johnson was the third highest seeded America’s boxer and 19th overall.
“My struggles are my stripes, and I wear them on my back, so that the people around me can see that even when you’re living in a jungle, you can still chase your dreams,” stated Johnson. “I am not only doing this for my city, but for my two coaches, Dante Benjamin Sr. and Clint Martin, whom I lost during my journey to these Games.”
Torrez, the highest ranked super heavyweight (201+ lbs./91+ kg) boxer from the Americas and 11th overall, earned his place through his third-place performance at the 2019 Pan American Games and top five standing at that year’s Elite Men’s World Championships. Torrez, a former Youth World Championships bronze medalist, will be the first American boxer to compete in this weight class since 2012.
“Everyone is happy they’re going to the Olympics, it’s everyone’s dream, but I need to be there,” said Torrez. “The fire that was instilled in me before I could even walk, that drives me to be the best, the fire that has been in my family for generations, has overflowed. It has set ablaze all my second options, and it has made ashes of any other possibility besides that of success.”
Team USA will be guided by USA Boxing National Head Coach Billy Walsh during these Olympic Games.
“It is fantastic news for our six boxers who have worked endlessly for the past five years to become an Olympian, “ Walsh shared. “We now focus on the next stage of the process, to become an Olympic Champion.”
The boxing competition will begin on Saturday, July 24th (JST). Continue to check usaboxing.org and USA Boxing’s social media platforms to stay updated on more information regarding the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
All team nominations are subject to USOPC approval.