The United States hasn’t won a super heavyweight medal in over three decades. Then came Richard Torrez Jr.
Torrez, 22, bested Cuba’s Dainier Peró in a second half battle in the bout, overcoming a cut over his left eye. With the win, he’s secured a spot in the semifinals at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Torrez has made his mark at the games as the first American super heavyweight to earn a medal in 33 years. The last super heavyweight gold was earned by Tyrell Biggs in 1984 at the Los Angeles Games. The next gold was Andre Ward who won as a light heavyweight in 2004.
But Torrez’s win didn’t come easy. Falling behind early on, Torrez had to wear down Peró. Four of the five judges favored Peró in the first round, three judges then gave the second round to Torrez and then it all came together for the American boxer in the third.
The cut that was opened early in the bout didn’t seem to faze Torrez as he claimed the medal.
The last US victory over a Cuban boxer in the Olympics was 2004 when Andre Dirrel defeated Yordanis Despaigne at the Athens Games. Cuba went 12-0 before tasting defeat at the Tokyo Games on Sunday.
Still, Cuban boxer Roneil Iglesias, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, advanced to the men’s light heavyweight gold medal match after a 5-0 win over Russia’s Andrei Zamkovoi and welterweight Arlen Lopez, a 2012 light welterweight gold medalist, advanced to the final with a 5-0 win over Azerbaijan’s Alfonso Dominguez Aze.
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The 22-year-old’s victory was the United States’ second medal, following featherweight Duke Ragan’s win over his quarterfinal match 3-2 against Ireland’s Kurt Walker. The American team holds three medals in Tokyo – matching its 2016 Olympics total – with thanks to female welterweight star Oshea Jones.
Torrez, of Tulare, California, has 10 national championships, a Golden Gloves title and Pan-American Games bronze under his belt. Heading into the Olympics, his amateur record is 151 wins and 10 defeats.
The pro heavyweight scene has been resurged since 2016 with American boxers Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder, Andy Ruiz Jr. and now Torrez. His win could spark days like Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), Joe Frazier, and Evander Holyfield who added medals in the biggest weight divisions.
The 6’2” boxer will next face Kazakhstan’s Kamshyebk Kunkabayev, the two-time defending silver medalist at the World Championships on Wednesday, August 4.