US boxer Richard Torrez Jr. going for gold and looking to make history

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The super heavyweight division was introduced at the Olympics in 1984, and the United States famously produced the first gold medalist in the weight class.

Tyrell Biggs won that title in Los Angeles, marking the only time in Olympic history an American has done so.

Nearly four decades later, 22-year-old Richard Torrez Jr. is in position to join Biggs when he fights top-ranked Bakhodir Jalolov of Uzbekistan on Sunday at the Tokyo Olympics.

Torrez also has a chance to become USA Boxing’s first male Olympic gold medalist at any weight class since light heavyweight Andre Ward was crowned in 2004 in Athens.

“I’m feeling great … I’m just going to keep doing all I can to be on that gold medal podium,” Torrez said after his third-round TKO victory over Kazakhstan’s Kamshybek Kunkabayev in the semifinals. “I’m going to do all I can to be able to go back home to say, ‘Dad, we did it.’ ”

The California native’s father fought at the U.S. Olympic trials in 1984 — the year Biggs captured the gold — but he did not qualify for the Games.

Torrez also is the first American super heavyweight to reach the gold medal match since Riddick Bowe, the future heavyweight champion of the world, took home the silver in 1988 in Seoul with a loss to Canada’s Lennox Lewis.

“It’s an existential feeling,” Torrez said earlier this week, according to The Washington Post. “I don’t know how to put it. What is love? It’s kind of that same thing. I’m meant to be here. All I know is that.”

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American featherweight Duke Ragan missed his chance to end the U.S. gold drought, earning silver after losing Friday to Russia’s Albert Batyrgaziev in the championship bout. Lightweight Keyshawn Davis also will go for gold on Sunday, against two-time amateur world champion Andy Cruz of Cuba.

Torrez, who walks into the ring to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” hails from Tulare, Calif., which also is the hometown of two-time decathlon gold medalist Bob Mathias (1948, 1952) and 1952 Olympic discus champion Sim Iness. They are depicted on a mural in Tulare under the words “Olympic Gold,” and Torrez is hoping to join them.

“Everyone here has believed in me,” Torrez said. “This isn’t a shock to them. This isn’t a shock to my dad. This isn’t a shock to my coach Billy [Walsh]. I think they all believed in it even more than I did. … I’m just a vessel. This is for everybody that’s worked so hard with our team.”

— With AP

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