Keyshawn Davis returned to Olympic-style boxing and won silver at the Tokyo Games. Now he’s diving back into the pros. He speaks to John Dennen
KEYSHAWN DAVIS had already turned professional before the Olympic Games. He left the US amateur programme and boxed three times in the paid ranks in 2021. But, once the pandemic saw the Americas qualifier cancelled, the qualification system changed. Due to his stellar amateur career over the previous years he had enough ranking points to qualify for the Tokyo Games. USA Boxing changed their rules to bring Davis and two other professionals back to their team.
“I believe it could only be awkward if you make things awkward. I was coming in to handle business so I wasn’t going to let all the extra stuff that already happened in the past come back and mess things up that could possibly be better moving forward,” Davis told Boxing News. “I just put all that aside, just moved forward and they were thinking the same thing. We were of one accord and that’s how we went about it.
“I probably wasn’t the reason they [USA Boxing] changed the rules but I definitely was brought up in the conversation. I still believe that. I feel like for the whole team, Troy Isley came back, Duke [Ragan] came back. It gave people all around the world a chance to come back from pros. We wasn’t the only country that was going through this so it gave a lot of people opportunity. So I appreciate the opportunity.”
But it was not easy to start his transition into pro boxing and then reverse that once again for the Olympic-style sport. “USA Boxing called me back for going to the Olympics, I had to get back into the rhythm of what they were already teaching me. So I had to put trust in them all over again. I put all the pro stuff aside, all the things I already learned or I felt accustomed to, I put everything aside and just learned off USA Boxing,” he said. “We all came together as a unit because we were all working for one goal. We all pushed each other in training camp and stuff like that. I feel like everybody fought great. This Olympic team was a standout Olympic team no matter the outcome,” he said.
“It was challenging from the get go,” he continued. “I had to pick up the pace and keep up that fast pace. Even transitioning, going into the fight, my first fight in the Olympics, it was weird. The gloves felt different, the environment was different and I just had to get comfortable within the tournament.”
But he beat Enrico Lacruz of the Netherlands in his first bout in Japan, a good opponent who was a two-time Olympian. “The last Olympics he lost to a Cuban, Lázaro Álvarez. He’s one of them fighters that have got experience you can’t sleep on, and I drew him the first day,” Keyshawn said.
But Davis won that well, and unanimously, then went on a remarkable run. He outpointed Russia’s Gabil Mamedov after stopping France’s Sofiane Oumiha, the Rio 2016 silver medallist, current World gold medallist and then the top seed in the Tokyo Olympics, in just two rounds.
“Honestly, this time around I did surprise myself because I got the stoppage [against Oumiha] and things like that. I never doubt my ability. I never doubt myself but that time around I definitely did surprise myself because I stopped him. On a level like that, that’s stuff people dream about,” Davis said. “He was the number one guy in our division so that was a big thing going into that fight. Power, I feel like I already had the power, I feel like I was already developing it. I feel like now I’m understanding how to place my shots.
“I feel I had the power, I just didn’t know how to really place them. Now I’m seeing shots, I’m throwing the shots and they’re landing. I’m just going to carry it back on to the pros. Keep it going.”
He beat the strong Armenian Hovhannes Bachkov in the semi-final and then went into the final against a familiar foe, Cuba’s great Andy Cruz, to whom AIBA have subsequently awarded the Val Barker trophy. Cruz won that final on a split decision.
“In Olympic style boxing I feel like he throws a slight bit more punches than me,” Keyshawn said. “I had a high percentage but he had a higher punch rate. So in the moment of fighting it looks as if he’s doing more than I’m doing. Even though when you look at the fight it’s like these guys are not really hitting each other. You can see he’s just doing a little bit more, he’s just staying a little bit more active. That’s Olympic style boxing. I’m more – I’m going to throw and I’m going to hit you. I’m not throwing punches just to be throwing.”
He’s boxed Cruz four times overall. “Styles make fights. I honestly believe I’m the better fighter all around and I believe he’s the better amateur fighter. He understands how to fight on the amateur circuit, which I do too but he knows how to do it better. Moving forward, in the pro game, there’s no stopping me. There’s no stopping me. Even if he comes here. If he’s able to adjust, he’s not going to be better than me. So just moving forward I’ve got to put things aside and just keep moving forward,” he said. “I just believe in myself. You can put them guys in front of me again in the pro game, it’s going to be worse. Including Andy Cruz. Styles make fights and I just believe in my ability. I believe even coming in the pros, it’s going to be the same confidence, I believe it’s going to be the same outcomes. I’m just here to put myself to the test and live it out.”
For the three pro bouts he’s had so far, Davis has not been tied into a long-term promotional deal. But now an Olympic silver medallist, he will speak to the major US promoters and make his next move. “I’m going to let things play out. I’m not rushing into anything. I’m going to see… I’m seeing what everybody is talking about,” he said. “I think I’m ready to settle down and get a world title for real, jump straight into things, not the slow route, we’re just going to go from there.”