‘I’m small, but mighty.’ America’s super-heavyweight Olympic silver medallist Richard Torrez speaks exclusively to John Dennen
THE honesty of Richard Torrez is disarming. “People say that their biggest fear is pubic speaking. Well, I don’t think any of them have been in an Olympic final with a guy who’s about 6ft 10. So it’s a little different!” he tells Boxing News.
The pressure on Torrez was extreme in the final at the Tokyo Games. He was going in with Bakhodir Jalolov, the towering Uzbek who had stopped him two years before at the World championships. That knockout haunted Torrez. It chased him across social media, being shared and reshared, he couldn’t escape that footage. “Everyone says that you were so brave and courageous in those fights, I’ll tell you first hand I was terrified. I’m not going to put it any other way. There was a couple of times before the [Olympic final] I rewatched my fight when I got knocked out by him and man, it was really hard to watch that,” Richard said. “I have a really strong foundation of people, that really helps support me and brings me to where I’m at today and they’re able to help calm my nerves and realise that I’m here for a reason.”
He finished with the Olympic silver medal but delivered a gutsy effort against Jalolov and went the distance. “Being able to be in that ring, not getting the decision we wanted, I think that proved that I was meant to be on that big stage as well,” he said. “There were some demons that I had to lay to rest. There are still some out there so I hope one of these days in the pros we can fight again, I’m getting better every time. It wasn’t the decision I wanted but I was proud of the performance I gave.
“Ultimately it was a bittersweet moment. But I went out there and I can say I gave my all and so I take a little pride and I take some gratitude in that manner. I was the first American in about 20 years to beat a Cuban in the Olympics, I beat some really good countries out there. I didn’t get the decision I wanted in the finals but I’m proud of the performance I had.”
Considering Jalolov is eight bouts into a parallel professional career, Richard Torrez went the furthest out of any true amateur at 91&kgs. “That fight allowed me to realise it didn’t matter what everyone else said, it mattered what I wanted. I went out there and I gave it my all,” he added.
He chalked up impressive results, including outworking and overcoming Cuba’s Dainier Pero in the quarter-finals to get himself into the medals. “I fought him one time previously in Lima, Peru at the Pan American Games. At that time he was real slick, he moved and I lost that first round and I knew next time I fought him I had to get on him and stay on him. And so we had that gameplan going into that, I talked to the coaches, coach Billy Walsh, who’s the Olympic head coach and my dad,” he explained. “The way that Billy says it is: ‘we’re going to take him to hell and back’ and that’s what I tried to do. I pride myself on my conditioning. I may not be the tallest or the strongest but I will say I’m one of the most conditioned out there. I think I showed that in that bout.
“It was not an easy fight. But those hard fights are the ones that make your career worth it and that definitely was one. It was an incredible fight. I have nothing against the Cuban, he’s a great fighter, a great guy. I’m happy that we able to perform the way we did.”
The American southpaw showed his power against Kamshybek Kunkabayev in the semi-final, hurting, dropping and stopping the experienced Kazakh. “I landed some big shots but that again was our gameplan. I have some really good coaches and we came with the gameplan that every time he tried to throw his left we were going to counter with our left and it worked,” Torrez said. “I’m the underdog in a lot of these situations just from the sole fact that I’m the smallest super-heavyweight. I think people are starting to realise I’m small but mighty.”
Torrez is just 22 years old. He’s won a super-heavyweight Olympic silver medal for the USA. His future is very bright indeed. “The support and overwhelming joy that not only my community but my country had for me, it’s been incredible since I’ve been back. It really made all the hard work and dedication through the years kind of worth it. I’m just really thankful that my community, my town and my country was able to acknowledge the success I had,” he said. “I am looking more towards to the pro scene, that way I can have my dad training and coach me [but] you never know what’s going to happen.
“It’s up in the air.”
He holds an amateur victory over Jared Anderson, Top Rank’s heavyweight professional prospect. “I fought him one time. It was a really good fight and we’ve been team mates since like 2015. We went to Russia together when we were Youths. We fought in the Golden Gloves one time, that was a good fight. I beat him in the amateurs but it was an amazing fight, it was real close and I was able to edge that one out,” Torrez remembered.
“Jared, he is, rightfully so, a highly acclaimed prospect for Top Rank,” he added. “When I fought him he wasn’t a true super-heavyweight, he was like a light-heavyweight.
“He’s just an amazing fighter and I wish him all the best.”
Torrez naturally is considering turning professional himself. “We have been talking with a lot of people. A lot of people are kind of courting me in a way,” he said. “I’m loving every single second of it. I’m trying to really just embrace the medal and everything that comes with it. I think this is one of the benefits, one of the rewards of war. So I’m excited to be here.”