Richard Torrez Jr. dug deep when it mattered most.
The California-bred super heavyweight secured the third medal for the U.S. boxing team in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, advancing to the semifinal round following a split decision win over Cuba's Dainier Pero.
Scores were 29-28 on all five scorecards, one for Pero and the other four in favor of Torrez who joins Duke Ragan (men's featherweight) and Oshae Jones (women's welterweight) in the medal round following his win Sunday at Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.
It required a rally and significant shift in tactics for Torrez, who was outworked by Pero in a round one where the American trailed on four of the five scorecards.
The pattern was reminiscent of their previous meeting, when Pero outpointed Torrez in the semifinals of the 2019 Pan Am Games. Pero went on to win the tournament and was a given a favorable chance of winning at least Bronze here in Tokyo.
Torrez picked up the pace in round two, while Pero showed signs of fatigue toward the end of the frame. A brief scare came midway through the round, when time was called in order for the ringside physician to examine a cut over the left eye of Torrez who fought through the blood.
Pero landed right hands to start round three, though his engine was clearly running low. Torrez enjoyed the superior workrate, applying relentless pressure in the final 90 seconds of the fight while Pero barely through a punch.
Torrez left it all in the ring, the type of finish you should offer when your Olympic medal hopes are at stake. His work was rewarded on the cards, sweeping the third and final round to enjoy a well-earned victory.
Cuba suffers its first loss in Tokyo, having run its record to 13-0 by that point including three wins earlier Sunday. Pero is the first member of this year's team who failed to medal.
Torrez becomes the first U.S. super heavyweight to medal since Riddick Bowe brought home Silver in 1988 Seoul.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox