Keyshawn Davis has made a dramatic return to the USA’s Olympic boxing team after halting a fast-moving pro career that propelled him into fights on Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s undercards.
2021 has been turbulent for many, but Davis has experienced a whirlwind six months before this summer’s trip to Tokyo.
The 22-year-old was set to go to the Olympics last year as one of the gold medal favourites in the lightweight division, but due to the postponement of the Games, followed by a falling out with US Boxing, the Virginia man made the difficult decision to turn professional in January.
Thankfully for Davis, due to issues with the scheduling of Olympic qualifiers, the bold move was made by organisers to allow boxers to compete based on previous accomplishments. This opened the door for Davis, as well as Duke Ragan and Troy Isley, to return to the US Olympic fold and bid for amateur boxing’s highest honour.
With both parties putting their issues to one side, there are now five men representing the United States at the games, with Davis considered their best bet for gold.
“It was just meant to be,” the American boxing sensation told Sky Sports from his US Olympic training camp in Colorado Springs.
“For a range of reasons this opportunity was taken away from me, now I have it back. Something tells me that when they were changing the rules, they were thinking of me.”
His belief that organisers may have altered the rules to assist his extraordinary talent is a good insight into the mentality of the man. He is astoundingly confident in his ability and has no doubts that an incredibly successful career lies ahead.
Davis already plans to surpass the achievements of a fellow native boxer of Virginia, the legendary Pernell Whitaker.
“Pernell was actually from the same city as me, Norfolk. He was a fighter that achieved greatness. Four-weight world champion, Olympic gold,” he said.
“Sweet Pea [Whitaker’s nickname] was amazing. Unfortunately, he was not so great outside of boxing. I want to achieve everything he did inside the ring but also be a great mentor and role model away from it.”
The journey for Davis as he seeks to emulate Whitaker’s gold medal of 1984 is scheduled to begin on July 27 in the lightweight division, the same weight class in which ‘Sweet Pea’ topped the podium.
The man nicknamed ‘The Businessman’ is oozing confidence for good reason. With an impressive amateur record that he has lost count of, he has also sparred three of the finest talents in America – Teofimo Lopez, Devin Haney and Gervonta Davis.
“It was just a great learning experience, sparring all of those guys. Each one was a different experience. It just helps with the boxing IQ and skill level,” he added.
“To be sparring those guys, and then coming back to the amateurs, it is of great benefit. America has the best champions in the world, and I have been holding my own with them. It was just a great way to develop my skills. I’ve sparred Terence Crawford and Shakur Stevenson too; you can’t get better than that.
“Now I’m going back to the amateurs, I know these guys aren’t on my level. I’ve been fighting them since I was 19, I’m 22 now.”
When asked if he was concerned about facing Andy Cruz, the Cuban who beat him in the World Amateur Championships in 2019, Davis is typically resolute.
“There is no doubt he is the best boxer I have been in with in terms of technical ability. The physically strongest is an Armenian, Hovhannes Bachkov, but I hold absolutely no fears and know I will win gold.
“It was 2019 I boxed Cruz, I’m a different boxer now.
“I’m not concerned about how the draw goes or who I face, that will take care of itself.”
Fighting on the biggest of stages is something Davis has already experienced, having appeared on the undercards for Canelo’s last two victories, as well as jetting off to Dubai to appear on the same bill as Jamel Herring’s world title fight against Carl Frampton.
He currently sits at 3-0 as a professional, with that version of his career currently on hold. Even if he wins gold, Davis will not be rushed towards a title on his return to the paid ranks.
“After I win the gold medal, it will not change anything. I will be staying on that same course as I was before this Olympic opportunity came up for me again.
“The gold medal gives you added exposure, but it will not mean I am looking to go down some fast-track route. The plan will be as it was before the Olympics.”
Davis holds Manny Pacquiao as his first boxing hero and he aspires to conquer a string of divisions like the Filipino star.
“I’m currently a lightweight, but I can certainly see myself ending up at super-welterweight, possibly even middleweight. If I have got the opportunity to go through the divisions, I will do it.”
But for now his thoughts are simply on winning that illustrious gold medal, something that has been a dream since he put on the gloves for the first time aged nine alongside his two brothers, who are both now professionals.
A gold medal is something that has astonishingly eluded the US men’s boxing team since Andre Ward won gold in 2004, when Davis was aged just five.
“I’m going to win this for the whole of America, I know that the entire nation is behind me,” he said.
“I’m positive I will win gold, it’s as simple as that. It will make the American people happy; it has been 17 years since the last one.
“It will be pretty special.”
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