Team USA thrives at World Championships
The United States sent a six-man team to the recent World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. The young team all performed on its biggest stage to date.
The U.S. team, who fought last summer in the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, had claimed two medals, a silver and a bronze, and subsequently moved to the pros. Not much was expected of the new batch. It was more an opportunity for them to gain international experience.
However, the youngsters managed to exceed expectations, winning a silver and two bronze. That is a very respectable medal haul, given their new team, and only super powers Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Cuba managed to win more.
The U.S. medal winners were Troy Isley at middleweight, Freudis Rojas at junior welterweight and Duke Ragan at bantamweight.
Isley, who recently turned 19, hails from Alexandria, Virginia by way of Washington. He boasts an amateur record of 99-20.
He was gifted a first-round walkover victory and then comfortably defeated Hosam Bakr Abdin 5-0 in the second round. In the quarterfinals, Isley stunned one of the medal favorites Israil Madrimov 3-2, before losing to the hugely talented Oleksandr Khyzhniak 4-1 in the semis. Khyzhniak would go on to win gold.
Despite not winning gold, Isley is pleased with his effort and believes there is more to come.
“I’m happy with my bronze and proud to win a medal at my first tournament on the big stage at 18,” Isley told RingTV.com. “I was fighting (eventual and former) World Championship medalists. I felt like I have proven myself and have got the respect I wanted but there’s plenty of stuff I need to work on.”
Las Vegas resident Rojas is a 19-year-old southpaw who sports a record of 60-9. He is also elated with his performance.
Rojas beat Norway’s Hadi Srour 5-0 in the first-round. In the second round, he impressively turned back the challenge of 2015 World Championship gold medalist Vitaly Dunaytsev 4-1 and whitewashed Eslam El-Gendy 5-0 in the quarterfinals. His run came to an end when he lost to Ikboljon Kholdarov 4-1 in the semis.
“I am really happy that I’ve got to medal in the World Championships, being only 19 years old,” Rojas said proudly. “However, it made me realize that I want that gold medal even more. And (it made me realize) how hard I have to train to get that gold.
“This tournament was amazing. Knowing that we had the youngest team in this whole tournament and made history by bringing medals back to the U.S. after so long. And it also made us realize that we are capable to fight with grown men and we are capable (of fighting) the best in the world.”
The most successful member on the team, Ragan, from Linn, Ohio, turns 20 later this month. He has had roughly 170 amateur contests and estimates that he’s won 150.
In his first bout, Ragan impressively beat Cuban Javier Ibanez 4-1 before shutting out the trio of Lee McGregor, Zhang Jiawei and Gaurav Bidhuri 5-0. Duke fought gallantly against the more seasoned Kairat Yeraliyev but lost 3-2 in an agonizingly close final.
“I feel great honestly,” Ragan stated. “I was down and sad about losing at first but I thought about it. It’s my first year on the elite level and I made it to the finals of the World Championships at 19 years old. I beat some of the top guys in the world, so I have no reason to be feeling down or sad.
“I looked over my fight and I honestly thought I won. Even the commentators thought it. They said clear that I won but it is what it is. My head is high. I’ll be back better than ever.”
Assistant coach Kay Koroma, who is also the resident coach of the U.S team, is pleased with the experience his young squad earned as well as their medal haul.
Having worked with the fighters, he’s not particularly surprised by their success.
“I am very happy with the outcome,” said Koroma. “We did just like we said we would. We came to make a statement to the world, like we did in Rio. We had a young team and, just like then, they were successful.”
The hope is that the U.S. team can continue on this path and crown their first Olympic gold medalist since Andre Ward at the 2004 games in Athens. They will have their chance at Tokyo 2020.
The other representatives of the U.S. team were Quinton Randall at welterweight, who lost in the quarterfinals to eventual silver medalist Roniel Iglesias.
Lightweight Delante Johnson lost in the opening round.
Nkosi Soloman had been due to take part at the tournament but hurt his hand whilst in Germany and was unable to perform.
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