After four pro fights, Duke Ragan returned to the amateurs for his toughest fight in more than a year but still found a way to prevail.
Cincinnati's Ragan produced an historic win for the U.S. Olympic boxing team, outpointing France's Samuel Kistohurry via split decision in the Round of 32 in the men's featherweight division of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Ragan prevailed by scores of 29-28 on three scorecards, with Kistohurry winning 29-28 on two cards.
The bout marked the first time ever that two pro boxers met in Olympic competition. Ragan is one of three pros representing the U.S. and was the first to fight, with his bout versus Kistohurry taking place in the first batch of matches Saturday morning (Tokyo time).
Ragan stuck to his boxing skills to take the opening round on four of the five judges' scorecards. Kistohurry continuously took the fight to Ragan, though often to the point of ineffective aggression.
Kistohurry applied the same approach in round two, while Ragan continued to work the jab. A clash of heads left Kistohurry briefly dazed, with time called to tend to a cut on the right side of his scalp.
Ragan attempted to stick to boxing but struggled to prevent Kistohurry from pushing his way inside. It was the sloppiest of the three rounds, though the 23-year-old Ragan maintaining his composure. Kistohurry charged forward, with Ragan wisely tying up the Frenchman only to get thrown to the canvas. The American boxer dusted himself off and finished the round strong to win on four of the five scorecards—good enough to pull ahead on three cards.
The win is the first for an American in the featherweight division since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the last time the weight division was featured in the quadrennial tournament. Cleveland's Raynell Williams represented the U.S., advancing to the round of 16.
Ragan has a chance to surpass his fellow Ohio native, though with a tough test ahead as he next faces Kazakhstan's Serik Temirzhanov who tore through Hungary's Roland Galos in the preceding bout.
Ragan (4-0, 1KO as a pro) is joined by Keyshawn Davis and Troy Isley as the trio of pro fighters representing the U.S.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox