Duke Ragan enjoyed a series of firsts for the U.S. Olympic boxing team competing in Tokyo.
Included among the list is the first American male boxer in this year's competition to advance to the medal round.
The fighting pride of Cincinnati is assured of at least a bronze medal following a split decision win over Ireland's Kurt Walker. All five judges scored the contest 29-28, two for Walker and three for Ragan who becomes the first boxer from the U.S. to earn an Olympic medal after turning pro following his win Sunday afternoon at Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.
Ragan—who is currently 4-0 as a pro with Top Rank—barely escaped with a split decision in his first fight competition but has grown more confident with each passing round. It showed in the opening round versus Walker, working his jab and keeping Walker on the outside. Walker did his best to turn the tide but ate a left hook for his trouble.
Walker showed the effects, with a cut over his right eye heading into the start of round two. The wound first appeared in his massive upset win over Uzbekistan's Mirazizbek Murzakhalilov, the number-one seed whom Walker ousted from competition in advancing to the quarterfinals.
The blood flowing from Walker's cut served as bullseye for Ragan's jab and left hook. Time was called to allow the doctor to examine the wound. The brief break energized Walker, who landed enough right hands to win the round on three of the five scorecards, pulling even on all three cards heading into the final three minutes.
Walker came out throwing, his amateur career at stake in looking to deliver Ireland its first ever medal in the men's featherweight division. Ragan was far enough ahead on two scorecards to where he just needed one of the three remaining judges to score the final round in his favor in order to advance to the medal round.
Judge Gintaras Sniuksta was the one who would see Ragan taking the last frame, scoring the bout 29-28 in the American's favor. The score matched that turned in by judges Yermek Suiyenish and Carl Ruhen, sending the U.S. to the medal round at featherweight for the first time since 2000 when Ricardo 'Rocky' Juarez won silver.
Walker brings home a bronze medal, the first featherweight representing Ireland to ever do so.
Ragan now joins Oshae Jones (women's welterweight) as American boxers who will bring home hardware. Both are guaranteed at least bronze, with Ragan looking to upgrade in the men's featherweight semifinal on August 3. He will next face Ghana's Samuel Takyi, who beat Colombia's Ceiber David Avila to advance.
The winner will then go on to fight for Gold on August 5.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox