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2012 U.S. Olympic Boxing Trials: Day Five

Story and photos by Scott Foster

Pictured right: 2008 Olympian Raynell Williams vs. 2011 National silver medal winner Toka Khan Clary

The 2012 U.S. Olympic Boxing Trials resumed on Thursday, with the once beaten boxers contesting their final round in the double elimination challengers bracket. Winners of tonight’s bouts will face the unbeaten boxers in the champions bracket Friday night, and if successful, must box an immediate rematch on Saturday, with the victor representing the United States in London, England.

4-time Golden Glove and 3-time National champion Louis Byrd (Denver, CO), dispatched to the challengers bracket the night before, looked to get back to his winning ways against 2011 Golden Gloves champion Santos Vasquez (Sun Valley, NV). Both boxers began with urgency, exchanging brisk combinations in a busy round that went to Vasquez, 9-7. Byrd opened the 2nd with a big right hand, and seemed to have turned the tide as the referee stopped the round at the mid-way mark, allowing Vasquez much needed rest in the corner. Energized, Vasquez came out of the break with his best combination of the bout, rocking Byrd with several big shots before finishing strong to the body. Vasquez entered the final round up 23-16, but was showing real signs of fatigue, answering Byrd’s rushes rather than dictating the pace. Vasquez’s tit-for-tat strategy paid off, as he was able to maintain his lead throughout the final minute, winning the bout 33-29.

17-year old sensation Shawn Simpson, hoping to force an immediate rematch with 2-time Olympian Rau’Shee Warren, had to first get past 2011 National bronze medal winner Emilio Sanchez (Pacoima, CA). Simpson opened the bout with typical flair, exhibiting clean lateral movement and flashy combinations. Simpson slowed in the 2nd round allowing Sanchez distance to work the body and land several lead right hands. Both fighters showed fatigue in the 3rd, but Simpson’s ring generalship and leveraged check-hooks swayed the judges, awarding him the win, 21-15.

“I feel like I can beat [Warren],” Simpson promised. “My speed matches his speed well. I just hope we have fair scoring. [In the first fight] I fought him more for the fans, instead of being smart -- I should have boxed him more. But I used heart more than anything, I just fought with Rau’shee.”

The most anticipated bout of the night came at 132lbs, with a rematch from the 2nd round war between 2008 Olympian Raynell Williams and 2011 National silver medal winner Toka Khan Clary (Providence, R.I.). Raynell was knocked from the champions bracket the night before, with Clary forced to march through the challengers bracket after losing to Williams on Monday, 30-25. Williams began the bout uncharacteristically aggressive, exchanging combinations in the middle of the ring before reverting to his sharp, southpaw jab. Clary was willing to throw with Raynell, and matched him punch for punch, ending the 1st in a 9-9 tie.

In the 2nd, Clary found a home for his lead left hand, but Raynell handled his power well, slipping many of his rushes and scoring to the body and head. Williams entered the 3rd with a 24-20 lead, but rather than rely on technique and distance to kill the clock, Raynell engaged, pining a stunned Clary on the ropes and unleashing one his best combinations of the tournament. Williams would extend this lead late into the round, controlling Clary’s aggression with lateral movement and clean, effective counterpunching. Williams would gain the nod, 37-28, securing the rematch with Jose Ramirez in the 132lb lightweight final Friday night.

“I feel good going into the final,” Raynell said. “In my head, I was telling myself, ‘I got 2 more fights.’ So now I got to focus on tomorrow, I gotta keep pushing. I’ve got a game plan waiting for [Ramirez]. We’ll see how tomorrow turns out.”

Day 5 results (Challengers Bracket):

108 lbs: Santos Vasquez, Sparks, Nev., dec. Louie Byrd, Denver, Colo., 33-29

114 lbs: Shawn Simpson, Chicago, Ill., dec. Emilio Sanchez, Pacoima, Calif., 21-15

123 lbs: O'Shanique Foster, Orange, Texas, dec. Tramaine Williams, New Haven, Conn., 19-13

132 lbs: Raynell Williams, Cleveland, Ohio, dec. Toka Khan Clary, Providence, R.I., 37-28

141 lbs: Pedro Sosa, Bronx, N.Y., dec. Duran Caferro, Helena, Mont., 22-12

152 lbs: Amir Imam, Albany, N.Y., dec. Samuel Vasquez, Fort Carson, Colo., 31-23

165 lbs: Luis Arias, Milwaukee, Wis. dec. Antoine Douglas, Burke, Va., 14-10

178 lbs: Siju Shabazz, Las Cruces, N.M., dec. Jerry Odom, Bowie, Md., 36-31

201 lbs: Joseph Williams, Bronx, N.Y., dec. Jordan Shimmell, Hudsonville, Mich., 12-10

201+ lbs: Laron Mitchell, San Francisco, Calif., won on walkover over, Andrew Shepherd, Fort Carson, Colo., W/O

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