The Olympic Trials for USA Men’s Boxing rolled in to final round action on Saturday with the winners bracket champions looking to end the tournament on Saturday and the challengers bracket titlists hoping to push the tournament to a Sunday winner-takes all bout.
Five winners bracket champions had their hands raised on Saturday night while the other half were pushed to a second day of finals by their opponents. Bantamweight Shakur Stevenson (Newark, N.J.), middleweight Charles Conwell (Cleveland Heights, Ohio), light heavyweight Jonathan Esquivel (Anaheim, Calif.), heavyweight Cam F. Awesome (Lenexa, Kansas), and super heavyweight Marlo Moore (Hayward, Calif.) all won their fourth straight bout without a loss on Saturday to win the Olympic Trials for Men’s Boxing. Lightweight Teofimo Lopez (Davie, Fla.) won the lightweight division in non-Olympic Trials competition to close an undefeated week in Reno. The four remaining bouts will take place at noon on Sunday at the Reno Events Center with the winner taking the Olympic Trials title.
The light flyweight division kicked off the competition with a rematch from the winners bracket finals between WSB and World Team Trial champion Nico Hernandez (Wichita, Kansas) and two-time USA Boxing national champion Leroy Davila (Princeton, N.J.). Hernandez was hoping to end the Olympic Trials tonight but Davila had other plans. Davila used his experience and ring intelligence to win a unanimous decision victory and push the light flyweight class to a winner-takes-all bout on Sunday.
2015 Pan American Games champion Antonio Vargas (Kissimmee, Fla.) has been on a mission since his loss to WSB and World Team Trial Brent Venegas III (Sacramento, Calif.) in Wednesday’s competition. The two faced off in rematch on Saturday night with Vargas looking to avenge his loss from earlier this week and Venegas hoping to clinch his Olympic Trials win tonight. Vargas emerged victorious, winning a 3-0 decision to force a winner-takes-all bout on Sunday.
The first Olympic Trials champion was crowned in the bantamweight division following two challengers bracket victories in the opening bouts. Junior and Youth World Champion and Youth Olympic gold medalist Shakur Stevenson (Newark, N.J.) refused to wait another day to win his Olympic Trials title. After falling to reigning National Golden Gloves champion Ruben Villa (Salinas, Calif.) twice earlier in 2015, he defeated him two times at the Olympic Trials to win the bantamweight division. Stevenson scored his fourth unanimous decision victory of the week en route to an Olympic Trials title and the Outstanding Boxer award. “I can’t believe this. It’s a dream come true. My jab helped me out a lot in that fight. I got it done,” Stevenson said. “I think my chances of qualifying internationally are really good. I’ve never lost overseas. This really is a dream come true. That’s all I can say. It’s a dream come true. It’s exactly the way I pictured it. Every decision was a 3-0 just the way I pictured it.” Stevenson’s victory on Saturday marks his fourth straight tournament victory in Reno. He won the Junior Open in 2013 followed by 2014 and 2015 Youth National Championships wins.
The lightweights entered the event knowing that they couldn’t win the chance to represent the United States in the Olympic Games but their effort certainly didn’t reflect that. Lopez and Montgomery met for the second time on Saturday and in both bouts, they entertained the crowd with an impressive show. Lopez claimed the victory for the second straight time, winning a 2-1 decision over Montgomery to take the gold medal.
Light welterweight Gary Russell (Capitol Heights, Md.) has been on a mission to repeat the feat his brother accomplished in the 2008 Olympic Trials by coming out of the challengers bracket after losing on the first day of the tournament. Russell faced off in a rematch with winners bracket champion Jaron Ennis (Philadelphia, Pa.) who defeated him on the opening day of competition on Monday. Russell flipped the script on Ennis in the rematch, winning a 3-0 decision to claim his fifth straight victory and force the light welterweight division to a winner takes all bout on Sunday. Should he emerge victorious on Sunday, he will duplicate the accomplishment of his brother, Gary Russell Jr. (Capitol Heights, Md.), a 2008 Olympian.
While one Philadelphia boxer fell in the light welterweight division, another emerged victorious in the welterweight division. The welterweight division will go to a second day in Sunday’s action following 2015 USA Boxing National Champion Ardreal Holmes’ (Flint, Mich.) final round match-up with Paul Kroll (Philadelphia, Pa.). Like Russell, Kroll also fell on the opening day of competition before marching all the way back to a Sunday bout. He defeated Holmes by a 3-0 decision to force a winner takes all contest on Sunday.
A second 18-year-old wasted no time to secure his Olympic Trials victory in the middleweight division. Two-time youth national champion Charles Conwell (Cleveland Heights, Ohio) faced off with two-time USA Boxing national champion Leshawn Rodriquez (Medford, N.Y.) in the seventh bout of the evening. The youngster defeated Rodriquez for the second time at the Olympic Trials, winning a 3-0 victory over Rodriquez to clinch the second Olympic Trials championship of the night. Conwell, who turned 18 in November, is one of the youngest boxers in the tournament but that didn’t deter him from accomplishing his mission in Reno. “I’m just thankful for my team, my family, all of my supporters from Cleveland and everywhere else. I’m speechless right now,” Conwell said. “I got started about seven years ago when my dad took me to the gym and we connected with this guy right here, Otha Jones and ever since then we’ve been working our way up to the top. I can’t wait to go to Argentina. All my dreams are coming true, I’m just thankful right now and overwhelmed.”
The winners bracket victory streak continued in the light heavyweight division as Jonathan Esquivel (Anaheim, Calif.) faced off with Elvis Figueroa (New Haven, Conn.). Esquivel, who has impressed throughout the tournament, closed the show with a 3-0 decision over Figueroa to claim Olympic Trials gold. To add to the excitement, 2004 Olympic light heavyweight gold medalist Andre Ward presented him with his award in the ring. “After all this hard work and all these years I’ve been boxing, it’s as elite as it gets. I feel great. I’m going to celebrate tonight with family and everyone who came out from Anaheim and then get back at it on Monday,” Esquivel said. “My dad thought [boxing] would keep me out of trouble so he put me in a boxing gym as a little troubled kid and who knows what would have happened now. It keeps me out of trouble because you’re traveling all the time and if you’re slacking you’re not going to win. You’re staying out of the streets and focusing in the gym and you get a victory like I did today.”
2012 Olympic Trials champion Cam F. Awesome (Lenexa, Kansas) entered the 2016 Olympic Trials slimmer and trimmer than the previous event and while he is rarely serious natured, he left no doubt that he is focused on the sweet science and accomplishing his long-time goal of becoming an Olympian. Awesome took on veteran Derae Crane (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and in his unique style, boxed his way to a 3-0 decision and his second straight Olympic Trials title. “I’m trying not to cry. It’s a long road and a very emotional week. I felt like I held myself together long enough that I can go cry now,” Awesome said. “I’m very confident going into internationals. You just have to qualify in the top three but my goal is to win and try and make a name for myself in the international scene and be ranked going into the Olympics for winning one of those tournaments. I was preparing for this tournament to be number one in the world not in the country. I’ve never been in this type of shape. I changed weight classes, my only issue was that I kept losing too much weight. It’s just the beginning but this is where my life picks up from 2012.”
Super heavyweight Marlo Moore (Hayward, Calif.) wasn’t one of the favorites entering the 2016 Olympic Trials for Men’s Boxing but he proved he belonged with four victories in Reno. A product of renowned trainer Virgil Hunter’s gym, Moore entered Saturday night as the winners bracket champion. He took on challengers bracket champion Brandon Lynch (Albany, N.Y.) in the final bout of the evening with his teammate Andre Ward looking on from ringside. He completed his improbable run to an Olympic Trials title with a 3-0 victory over Lynch. “I’m feeling good, it just hasn’t sunk in. We put the last win in the back and moved on and here we are, on our way to Rio,” Moore said. “It’s an amazing feeling, words can’t describe it.”
The remaining four bouts will take place on Sunday at noon at the Reno Events Center. All of Saturday’s victors as well as Sunday’s champions still must qualify internationally to earn berths on the 2016 Olympic Team. They will have three international qualifying opportunities beginning with a continental tournament in March in Buenos Aires, Argentina followed by a tournament for APB/WSB athletes and a last chance qualifier.
Olympic Trials Results
108 lbs: Leroy Davila, Princeton, N.J., dec. Nico Hernandez, Wichita, Kansas, 3-0
114 lbs: Antonio Vargas, Kissimmee, Fla., dec. Brent Venegas, Sacramento, Calif., 3-0
123 lbs: Shakur Stevenson, Newark, N.J., dec. Ruben Villa, Salinas, Calif., 3-0
132 lbs: Teofimo Lopez, Davie, Fla., dec. Maliek Montgomery, Macon, Ga., 2-1
141 lbs: Gary Russell, Capitol Heights, Md., dec. Jaron Ennis, Philadelphia, Penn., 3-0
152 lbs: Paul Kroll, Philadelphia, Penn., dec. Ardreal Holmes, Flint, Mich., 3-0
165 lbs: Charles Conwell, Cleveland Heights, Leshawn Rodriquez, Medford, N.Y., 3-0
178 lbs: Jonathan Esquivel, Anaheim, Calif., dec. Elvis Figueroa, New Haven, Conn., 3-0
201 lbs: Cam F. Awesome, Lenexa, Kansas, dec. DaRae Crane, Colorado Springs, Colo., 3-0
201+ lbs: Marlo Moore, Hayward, Calif., dec. Brandon Lynch, Albany, N.Y., 3-0