Two Alexandria boxers fighting for the gold

Two Alexandria boxers fighting for the gold
Troy Isley (left) and KeyShawn Davis, both 18, are both hoping to head to the Olympics on the USA boxing team in 2020 (Photo Credit / James Cullum)

By James Cullum |

KeyShawn Davis walked into the Alexandria Boxing Club on Monday, carrying his National Golden Gloves championship belt and wearing a smile.

Davis, at only 18, is already making a name for himself in the boxing world as a junior bantamweight fighter. He’s been fighting since the age of nine and, recently, he made the move from Norfolk to the Port City to move in with his 25-year-old sister, Shanice, and his 15-year-old brother, Keon Davis.

Moving to Alexandria was as much about joining Alexandria’s elite and growing list of national and world-ranked fighters as staying out of trouble in his personal life.

“Norfolk is dangerous, and it’s easy to get in trouble,” Davis said. “It was very challenging. I came up here in a different environment. I’m used to different coaching, a different school, different people. But as many times as I wanted to go home to Norfolk, I knew staying here would benefit me in the long run. Alexandria is the first step in me pursuing my boxing career.”

Since moving to Alexandria, he’s joined International Boxing Organization Inter-Continental Middleweight champ Antoine “Action” Douglas and Alexandria’s featherweight fighter Shakur Stevenson, who won the silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

A West Potomac High School senior, Davis holds five Ringside Tournament championship belts and is considered one of the top junior bantamweight fighters in the country – but don’t tell that to his coach, Dennis Porter.

KeyShawn Davis shadowboxing at the Alexandria Boxing Club (Photo/James Cullum)
KeyShawn Davis shadowboxing at the Alexandria Boxing Club (Photo/James Cullum)

“He’s too laid back. He’s always focused, just too laid back, but when he [does] get started, he gets started,” Porter said. “Then he’s on. But when he gets to be a professional, they don’t want nobody to put the crowd to sleep. He got to stay busy. He gotta let loose, know what I’m sayin’? You got the monster inside, you gotta let it out.”

That laid-back style is intentional, according to Davis, who uses it to his advantage.

“I let people come to me. If they come to me I can see more, and usually I have a longer reach and I’m strong and faster than my opponents. They can’t adjust to my speed or power.”

Davis recently beat Adrian Benton to become the National Golden Gloves champ by a unanimous decision. He has set his sights set on joining the USA Olympic Boxing team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with fellow Alexandria Boxing Club teammate Troy “The Transformer” Isley. Davis and Isley will have to win the USA Nationals Boxing Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, this December to make it on the team – for Davis, this will be the first time he’s gone to the Nationals.

You might expect two ambitious teenage boxers to be rivals, but, in fact, Davis and Isley have become friends and they goad each other during workouts.

“We feed off each other’s energy,” said Isley, a middleweight who won the

Troy Isley, a fellow Olympic hopeful, is heading to the boxing national tournament in December.
Troy Isley, a fellow Olympic hopeful, is heading to the boxing national tournament in December.

U.S.A. Boxing National Championship last year.

Dara Shen, the former USA Nationals Boxing champ who is considered the den mother of the boxing club, says the boxers form tight relationships for a reason.

“The fighters in here are like a family,” she said. “There’s plenty of stories to tell here. Everyone has been through some type of struggle, and you put that struggle between yourself and the ring, and all of a sudden life starts to make sense.”

Isley is headed on his own path, working toward the 2020 Olympics, provided that he wins the Nationals again – a prospect made more realistic as members of the elite division are afforded training opportunities at the Team USA facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This year he also heads to the 2017 Continental Boxing Championships in Honduras. If he places, he will qualify for the International Boxing Association World Championships this summer in Hamburg, Germany.

An Alexandria native and senior at T.C. Williams, Isley started boxing at the age of 10, after his father, Kevin, caught him fighting after daycare every day at Charles Houston Recreation Center.

“Once the bell rings, I’m a quick thinker. I know exactly what I’m going to do before I do it and after I finish it,” Isley said. “My goal is getting a gold medal and being the world champion and being known as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers ever.”

Porter said that Isley is a natural.

“Troy was born to fight. He’s not afraid of anything – height or reach. He’s got a little Marvin Hagler in him and he hits like Joe Louis,” he said. “He just has no fear, and if he does he hides it very well. He’s very calm. I’m the one nervous in the fight, because I don’t know what’s coming. I just know he won’t lose. It’s the way he fights. He adjusts to every fighter. He can transform himself, and that’s why we call him ‘The Transformer.’ He can walk into the ring and turn into something completely different.”

If you’re wondering where Isley’s style comes from, look no further than his father.“Troy reminds me of me with his fighting style,” Kevin Isley said. “It’s the ferocity, it’s everything. Troy is a well-rounded fighter now. Troy’s got it all, and he puts it together, he’s not just winging it. He knows how to set his opponents up.”

As Isley moves toward championships, high school graduation and plans to attend college, Davis is looking to make an impact of his own.

“My ambition is to not only be great in boxing, but to inspire other people along the way,” Davis said. “I mostly want to provide for my family and turn a bad situation into something good.”