Richard Torrez Jr. continues to perform like a team captain.
The southpaw slugger from Tulare, California puts USA in the Gold medal round at Super Heavyweight for the first time since 1988 following a third-round stoppage Kazakhstan's Kamshybek Kunkabayev.
Torrez scored knockdowns late in round two and again in round three, the latter—coupled with a broken nose and cut suffered by Kunkabayev—prompted a Referee Stops Contest-Injury (RSC-I) at 1:31 of round three of their Tokyo Olympics Super Heavyweight semifinal bout Wednesday afternoon at Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.
The otherwise competitive affair saw the 6'2" Torrez power his way inside, walking through Kunkabayev's straight right hand to connect with several overhand lefts. The first significant shot of that kind landed by Torrez came late in round one, a frame which was on the table and ultimately sealed by the American.
Kunkabayev began to fall apart midway through round two. Another overhand left from Torrez caught the attention of the Kazakhstani super heavyweight, who was deducted one point for excessive holding. Torrez sealed the round with a clean knockdown, landing a crushing left hand in the closing seconds to send Kunkabayev to the canvas.
Torrez enjoyed a commanding 20-17 lead on four scorecards to that point, but clearly wasn't willing to coast to the finish line.
The American continued to take the fight to Kunkabayev, aiming for his second stoppage win in Tokyo. It would come midway through the round, when Torrez connected with a left hand that put Kunkabayev on the deck for the second time along with drawing blood from a broken nose.
A mandatory eight count was followed by a visit to the ringside physician, with the decision that Kunkabayev was no longer fit to fight.
Torrez now joins USA featherweight Duke Ragan in the Gold medal round, with Keyshawn Davis looking to make it a trio of Americans fighting for the highest honor at the amateur level.
Torrez and Ragan already become the first two American male boxers to compete for Gold in the same Olympics competition since 2000, when Ricardo Williams (light welterweight) and Ricardo 'Rocky' Juarez (featherweight) won Silver in their respective final round appearances.
With the inclusion of women's boxing in the Olympics since 2012, the U.S. team now sends two representatives to the Gold medal round for the second straight competition. Claressa Shields won the second of her two Gold medals in the middleweight division in 2016, while Shakur Stevenson took home Silver following a narrow loss to Cuba's Robeisy Ramirez in their men's bantamweight final.
The win by Torrez sets up a very interesting rematch. He will next face Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov, the two-time Olympian who advanced following a third-round stoppage of Great Britain's Frazer "The Eraser" Clarke.
The fight was stopped at 1:07 of round three, due a cut over Clarke's right eye caused by a straight left hand from Jalolov who lead on the scorecards to that point.
The fight was competitive in the ring, though with Jalolov getting the credit from the judges. Clarke had his best moment in round two, producing a standing eight count to the dismay of Jalolov.
Knockdowns in the amateurs do not automatically result in losing the round, much losing extra points. Jalolov proved that in taking round two on four of the five cards and with a commanding lead heading into the final round.
The cards became moot after Clarke was at the mercy of the ringside physician. Already entering the fight with cuts over both eyes following a disqualification win over France's Mourad Aliev, Clarke was sliced open after Jalolov connected with a perfectly placed left hand. The wound was deemed too severe to allow action to continue.
Clarke manages to bring home Bronze, giving Great Britain its third consecutive medal at this weight. Joe Joyce won the Silver medal in 2016 while Anthony Joshua took home Gold at 2012 London.
The upcoming Gold medal bout is a rematch of the 2019 World Amateur Championship quarterfinals. Jalolov scored a violent first-round knockout, with Torrez left flat on his back and to where he had to be carried out on a stretcher.
Torrez has suffered just one loss since, coming via walkover in the 2020 Strandja Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Torrez-Jalolov will take place Sunday, August 8 in the final men's bout of competition.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox