Richard Torrez is the USA’s super-heavyweight at Tokyo 2020

At the 2016 Olympics, the United States did not name a single boxer in the light-heavyweight, heavyweight or super-heavyweight divisions. A lineage that included Muhammad Ali was not just downtrodden, it was worse than that. It was totally forgotten. To resurrect an Olympic powerhouse in a marquee event is the task posed for Richard Torrez. No pressure, then. He is an impossibly cool, purpose-built athlete who would not look out of place in a US teen drama – “it’s just another day in the ring for me,” he smiles.

The sobering crash of the US heavyweight scene at Rio 2016 had been foreseen but not prevented.

Gone were the days of Ali (then Cassius Clay), Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Leon Spinks winning gold; Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe and Antonio Tarver adding medals in the biggest weight divisions.

Andre Ward won gold in 2004 as a light-heavyweight but the best big men that the US could muster were Devin Vargas and Jason Estrada. That number shrunk to just one in 2008 – Deontay Wilder, who won bronze. By 2012, Dominic Breazeale, Michael Hunter and Marcus Browne all crashed out in the first round leading to the complete absence of any American heavyweights four years later for the first time in nine Games.

Enter Richard Torrez.

Perhaps it was always going to require a super-heavyweight who has boxing coursing through his blood to provoke an upturn in fortunes. He is not a believer in fate but says: “If there is destiny, then this is mine.”

Torrez acknowledges that potential boxers instead chose to become NFL or NBA players but he tells Sky Sports from Tokyo: “I feel like boxing is its own niche. If a guy wants to go into football? That’s great. But you will always have that one guy who wants to fight.

“You will always have that one guy who wants to bite down on his mouthpiece and punch.

“So it’s not a major issue. Yes, it might take some of the guys out. But the great ones know what they want to do with their life – they want to be a boxer.”

Defiantly, he states: “Whether it was to American football or to basketball, I’m not sure where the big guys went. But they are coming back in a great way.

“We have had great heavyweights and I consider myself the best.

“We will shock the nation in the next couple of years.

“The big guys are here to stay.”

Torrez is 22 years old. He graduated as High School Valedictorian (an honour given to the highest-ranked academic achiever), he was a member of his school’s robotics and chess clubs, and he enjoys magic tricks.

He might not be an American heavyweight in the mould of Mike Tyson but he has genuine pedigree in a sport that he was being primed to dominate before his birth.

“My grandpa wanted this to happen, my dad wanted it to happen,” he says. “It’s something I’ve been building towards for my entire life.

“My grandpa started boxing when he was a kid. His uncle came home from the Air Force and gave my grandpa some gloves. Grandpa went around town trying to box everybody!

“Then people started coming to him and he started a gym in his shed.

“My dad got into boxing because he was told by my grandpa: ‘If you come, you’ll get a McDonald’s afterwards!’

“He stuck with it and became fourth and fifth in the world in two weight divisions in the amateurs. He is the person I look up to the most.

“The first time I got in the ring? I was four. The first time I had a fight? I was eight. The first time I won nationals? I was 10.

“I have not lost in the US in the past eight years. I have been on the elite national team for the past four years.

“My dad stood on the shoulders of my grandpa. And I am stood on the shoulders of my dad. It’s a pretty great view from up here, you know?”

Success in Tokyo for Torrez would be hugely consequential; not since Tyrell Biggs in 1984 have the USA won a super-heavyweight gold medal.

A young man with gold around his neck who can walk the walk, and talk the talk, like Torrez would become a valuable commodity overnight. But this journey is no quick fix, it has been in his bloodline since his grandpa was given a pair of crusty old gloves.

“You don’t have to be born a boxer to be a great,” he says. “I was lucky that my dad and grandpa were boxers so it was a generational thing.

“My life was set.

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