Of all the boxers in Tokyo, American Richard Torrez Jr, must be one of the most interesting, mainly because he doesn’t fit the stereotype of dim, impoverished fighter.
Torrez, who at 6-1 and 200 pounds is among the smallest boxers in the superheavyweight division at the Olympics, is in the semis against Kamshybek Kunkabayev of Kazakhstani on Wednesday.
If he doesn’t turn pro in boxing, Torrez will have plenty of options. An amateur magician, he said he’s been taking a deck of cards with him while walking around the Olympic Village.
“I just learned a new magic trick,’’ he said. “It’s a good way to break the ice and exchange pins. It’s really cool in the Olympic village.’’
Torrez is definitely not all brawn. The 22-years-old Californian graduated from high school as valedictorian. He was on the chess team and in the robotics club in high school. He enjoys listening to classical music before his training sessions and fights and keeps a dream journal. He also posts YouTube videos celebrating his love for engineering.
In fact, Torrez was set to head off for California Polytechnic State University after graduating from high school in 2017 when USA Boxing invited him to camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
So he talked to his parents, both educators who had instilled in him the importance of education. “They said you can always go back to college,’’ Torrez said. Boxing, as much as education, is in his DNA. His father fought for the US team but never made it to the Olympics. His grandfather was a boxer too.
“Boxing is known as the sweet science,” Torrez said. “People call it a chess match; you know? It’s a thinking game. So I do think a lot of boxers have this in them. I just think they don’t show it in the same ways I do.’’
Torrez thinks he is a gold-medal calibre boxer and is trying to become the first American super heavyweight to win an Olympic medal since Tyrell Biggs did it in 1984.
“I may not be the fastest," Torrez said. “I may not be the strongest. But I am one of the most conditioned." And he’s probably the only boxer who likes to quote Gandhi.
“I’m really into that Gandhi saying: Live as if you were to die today, learn as if you were to live forever."