Batyrgaziev, Ragan make Olympic history for pro boxers

Aug 4, 2021, 2:54 PM | Updated: Aug 5, 2021, 3:40 am

TOKYO (AP) — Albert Batyrgaziev became the first professional boxer to win an Olympic gold medal Thursday when the 23-year-old Russian conquered the featherweight division by beating Duke Ragan, a fellow pro.

And though Batyrgaziev knows he made history and both of these fighters greatly boosted their pro careers with Olympic success, he thinks the distinction between professional and Olympic boxing is weak — and getting weaker.

“I think that being here for any athlete means that it’s a professional or a near-professional experience,” Batyrgaziev said through an interpreter. “A professional boxer is not only someone who does it full-time (for money). It also means that here at these Games, any athlete can consider himself or herself a professional.”

Batyrgaziev and Ragan became the first two professional boxers to meet in a Games final at the Kokugikan Arena. Batyrgaziev, who is 3-0 as a pro boxer, escaped with a 3:2 victory by employing a strategy that was much more Olympic than his American opponent’s approach.

Batyrgaziev, a teenage kickboxing champion from Dagestan who picked up boxing just five years ago, pressured Ragan from the opening bell in the final. He largely dominated the first round with aggression and high punch volume — the two traditional keys to persuading amateur judges.

Meanwhile, Ragan needed nearly half of the three-round fight to find his game. The 4-0 pro knows his approach is more typical to the professional game, where more rounds allow more counterpunching and more gradual buildups to action.

The 23-year-old from Cincinnati spoke throughout the tournament about his struggle to override his professional mentality in time to win these brief bouts.

“I feel like his conditioning won him the fight,” Ragan said. “I started finding my rhythm later in the fight, but it was too late then. It’s only three rounds.”

Ragan learned he was headed to the Olympics only in early June when the Boxing Task Force overseeing the Tokyo tournament finalized its qualification processes. He became the 12th U.S. medalist in the featherweight division, and he wouldn’t change his career path.

He also realizes he has greatly helped his promoters at Top Rank by giving himself a new title that will be attached permanently to his name for the rest of his boxing career: Olympic silver medalist Duke Ragan.

“I take that and run with it,” Ragan said. “It was a blessing to be here. I’m glad that I was a professional. A little bit more experience, even though I didn’t get the belt. But it’s all good.”

Pros have been allowed to qualify for the past two Olympics, and the three pros who competed poorly in Rio de Janeiro have been followed by more than 40 in Tokyo. The pros have again failed to dominate — in fact, the most experienced professionals in the field have all been eliminated without medals.

Now that Batyrgaziev and Ragan have finished the Olympic portions of their careers with the two biggest medals, bigger paydays are in store — and even better, they’ve now got a history. When they were asked if they would be open to a professional rematch with more rounds and fewer competitive obstacles, both fighters loved the idea.

“If that was to happen, I really look forward to getting revenge,” Ragan said. “It would be a big headline, and I’m pretty sure that everyone that tuned into the Olympics would want to see that again, especially on a bigger level.”

Nobody left in the Tokyo field has more than the eight pro fights of Uzbek super heavyweight Bakhodir Jalolov, who fights USA Boxing’s Richard Torrez Jr. for gold in the final fight of the Games on Sunday.

Batyrgaziev’s win is a welcome breakthrough for the Russian team, which qualified 11 fighters for Tokyo. Batyrgaziev’s gold was its first after three semifinal losses ended with three bronzes, while two fighters are still in competition.

The team is rebounding from a dismal performance in Rio, where it also qualified 11 boxers but came away with only one gold medal.

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A partial view of the Stadium 974 prior to the start of the World Cup group G soccer match b...
Associated Press

Built to disappear: World Cup stadium 974

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Of the seven stadiums Qatar built for the World Cup, one will disappear after the tournament. That’s what the games’ organizers have said about Stadium 974 in Doha — a port-side structure with more than 40,000 seats partially built from recycled shipping containers and steel. Qatar says the stadium will be […]
1 day ago
France's Kylian Mbappe plays during the World Cup group D soccer match between Tunisia and France a...
Associated Press

Messi, Mbappé and co: The AP’s World Cup team of group stage

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Writers covering the World Cup for The Associated Press have chosen their standout players at the tournament so far to form a best team of the group stage. Spoiler alert: Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé are in there, along with surprise names who have helped to cause some of the many […]
1 day ago
Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole (3) changes direction while defended by Chicago Bulls forw...
Associated Press

Poole scores 30 points with seven 3s off bench, Warriors win

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Draymond Green is healthy and back to his elite level of doing a bit of everything on both ends, even leading the offense with the second unit. He just missed his first triple-double of the season. Green is regularly knocking down 3-pointers, too. Jordan Poole also found his groove from beyond […]
1 day ago
Indiana Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard, left, guards against Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) dur...
Associated Press

Markkanen, Kessler help Jazz overwhelm Pacers 139-119

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Lauri Markkanen had 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Utah Jazz to a 139-119 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night. Rookie center Walker Kessler scored a career-high 20 points on 7-of-7 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds for Utah. Jordan Clarkson had 19 points and Collin Sexton […]
1 day ago
San Diego State forward Jaedon LeDee (13) shoots over Occidental forward Bernard Cassidy (34) durin...
Associated Press

Seiko, No. 24 San Diego St beat Division III Occidental

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Adam Seiko scored 20 points, including six 3s, to lead No. 24 San Diego State over Division III Occidental 95-57 on Friday night. The Aztecs (6-2) hit 19 of 37 shots from 3-point range. They won their second in a row after consecutive defeats to Arizona and Arkansas at the Maui […]
1 day ago
Utah running back Ja'Quinden Jackson (3) falls into the end zone for a touchdown, next to Southern ...
Associated Press

No. 4 USC falls to Utah in Pac-12, all but ending CFP hope

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Caleb Williams once again was starring in his own highlight video, breaking four tackles and finding himself in the open field for a 59-yard gain. No. 4 Southern California looked as if it would do whatever it wanted against No. 12 Utah and coast into the College Football Playoff. But, Williams […]
1 day ago
Batyrgaziev, Ragan make Olympic history for pro boxers