The last two years have been quite the rollercoaster for 2020 Olympian Troy Isley (Alexandria, Va.). He dealt with two shoulder surgeries and the loss of his Olympic dream amidst the challenges of the pandemic in 2020 before returning to the ring for three professional bouts and an unprecedented appearance in the Olympic Games in 2021.
Isley made the move back to the amateur ranks between his second and third professional fights to compete in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, winning stoppage victories in both bouts in the paid ranks. With the turbulence of the last two years behind him, Isley is fully focused on the next chapter of his career.
He will open 2022 in his first six rounder against Harry Keenan Cruz Cubano (6-2, 1 KO) this Saturday at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y. Isley has been preparing for his fourth professional fight in Las Vegas with his coach Kay Koroma and several other young prospects, including Kenneth Sims, Jr., and stablemate Bruce Carrington.
“My opponent is tough. He’s going to take risks. He’s pretty wild,” Isley said. “I feel like I’m better than this guy and whatever he can do, I can do better. You’re going to see big things from me in 2022. Fans are going to see my overall skill set and more boxing rather than me just coming forward and banging all the time.”
In addition to his lifelong trainer, known to most as “Coach Kay”, multi-time Olympic coach Al Mitchell is sharing his extensive knowledge with Isley. The 23-year-old has even spent weeks in Marquette, Mich., with the highly decorated coach learning from his old school techniques. Mitchell participated in the last two weeks of Isley’s Las Vegas training camp before the trio traveled east to Verona on Tuesday for the fight week festivities.
Isley’s bout will highlight the undercard of the Joe Smith-Steve Geffrard undercard on Saturday, January 15 at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, N.Y. Undercard action is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. on ESPN+.
HOMETOWN: Alexandria, Virginia BIRTHDATE: September 5, 1998 WEIGHT CLASS: Junior middleweight HEIGHT: 5-10
PROFESSIONAL RECORD: 3-0 (2 KOS) COACHES: Kay Koroma, Al Mitchell and Dennis Porter
2019 PAN AMERICAN GAMES BRONZE MEDALIST TWO-TIME USA BOXING NATIONAL CHAMPION
Since his early days as a boxer, Troy Isley dreamt of representing his hometown of Alexandria, Va., in the Olympic Games. He could never have imagined the unique road he would take to the world’s biggest sporting event.
Isley picked up the sport as an energetic nine-year-old at an area recreation center which also houses the Alexandria Boxing Club. He remembers his regular visits to the Charles Houston Recreation Center as a child. Inevitably when his father came to pick him up, he would find his son in some form of time out after Isley was caught fighting with other kids. Eventually a staff member reached out to young boxing coach Kay Koroma and asked for his assistance with the rambunctious youngster. Coach Kay brought Isley in to the boxing gym and he and coach Dennis Porter found a way to channel that combative energy in to a positive outlet.
It certainly wasn’t love at first sight for Isley and boxing. He recalls being bored in the early days of jabbing at the mirror and wanting to know when he was finally going to get the chance to spar. At the time, he was also playing football, but soon realized that team sports weren’t for him. He was more of an individual sport guy. When he finally stepped in to the ring to spar, it didn’t take long for his natural talent to shine through. He got the best of everyone they put in the ring with him and Coach Porter told his parents that if he stayed dedicated to the sport, he could become a national champion.
Isley would go on to exceed that proclamation, becoming a national champion at every level. He credits his first junior Olympic title victory in 2014 as the breakout moment for him. He dominated each and every bout, winning the Outstanding Boxer award to officially announce his arrival to the national scene. After taking a brief break the following year, Isley added his first national championship at the elite level. He won the 2016 USA Boxing National Championships to earn a spot on the 2017 World
Championship team. Despite his young age and limited international experience, Isley won a bronze medal at his first World Championship event. It would be the first of many international medals that Isley would win over the next few years, including bronze at the 2019 Pan American Games.
During that time, Isley became a member of the USA Boxing resident program, moving to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where he would spend the next three years as he worked toward his goal of becoming an Olympian. While he was highly successful during that time, it took a toll on his body and as he entered the Olympic qualifying period, he was battling injuries to both of his shoulders.
He fought through the injuries at the Olympic Trials but fell short, finishing third. He thought that that was the end of his Olympic dream and chose the following month to have surgery on his left shoulder. He went under the knife in January of 2020 to fix multiple issues in his left arm and remained in his dorm room at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) to undergo post-surgery rehab.
The start of 2020 was an extremely trying time for Isley who watched the Olympic Trials champions prepare for Tokyo at the OTC while he rehabbed his injured shoulder. Yet that wasn’t the only challenge he faced. Coach Dennis Porter, who had trained Isley alongside Kay Koroma, since his early days at the Alexandria Boxing Club, passed away during that same time as well.
He says that watching the Olympic qualification team train motivated him to work hard and begin to make noise in his own career. As he watched his former teammates begin their Olympic preparation, Isley knew that he had to plan for the next chapter in his career – the professional ranks.
He signed with elite manager James Prince in late January and promoter Top Rank the following month. Yet, Covid-19 would soon hit the United States and shut down much of the world. Isley and his team made the decision to deal with the injury to his right arm at that time so that he could begin his professional career completely healthy. Following a June 2020 surgery and accompanying physical therapy, Isley entered 2021 focused and ready.
He made his professional debut in February of 2021, winning a unanimous decision victory over Bryant Costello in The Bubble at the MGM Grand. When he stepped in to the ring for his first pro fight, he hadn’t fought in approximately 14 months and looking back, Isley certainly felt the ring rust.
As he prepared for his second pro fight, he received unexpected news. The Olympic dream that had meant so much to him throughout his amateur career wasn’t actually dead. The pandemic had cancelled several of the Olympic qualifying events and the International Olympic Committee’s Boxing Task Force therefore had to rewrite the Olympic selection procedures and they deferred to existing international rankings. Due to his international success from 2017-2019, he was going to have a chance to compete
in the rescheduled Olympic Games along with two fellow professional boxers and former USA Boxing teammates Duke Ragan and Keyshawn Davis.
While all of the details were being worked out, Isley was preparing for his second professional fight on June 12, 2021 in Las Vegas on the undercard of friend and teammate Shakur Stevenson.
Isley scored an impressive TKO victory in his second professional fight before jumping on a plane the following day to head to Olympic training camp in Colorado Springs. With his professional business handled for the moment, Isley focused on returning to the amateur style for one more tournament, the biggest of all the tournaments.
It was important to Isley to not only represent his country, but also the city of Alexandria. His hometown provided him with a great deal of support and inspiration and he was thrilled to represent them on the Olympic stage.
Just a few short weeks later, Isley and his Olympic teammates were in Tokyo, finalizing preparations for the Olympic Games. While it was far from a typical Olympics, Isley beams when talking about his Olympic experience, meeting other athletes and being in the Olympic village.
He opened the tournament with a unanimous decision victory over a 3-2 decision over Isley to eliminate him from the Olympic Games. Looking back, Isley Vitali Bandarenka of Belarus to set up a second round contest with reigning World Champion Gleb Bakshi of Russia. The two battled in a highly competitive contest over five rounds but Bakshi took recognizes the mistakes he made in starting too slow and figuring his opponent out a bit too late.
Although Isley didn’t return with a medal, he fulfilled his lifelong dream and that of his coach Dennis Porter by competing in the Olympic Games.
With the Olympics behind him, Isley turned all of his focus back to his professional career and returned to the ring on the undercard of Stevenson’s bout with WBO World Champion Jamel Herring. Isley put on a show in his third professional fight, stopping Nicholi Navarro in the first round of their contest. He is now preparing for his 2022 opener on January 15 in Verona, N.Y.
The youngest of six siblings, Isley credits his family and their unwavering belief in him as his biggest motivation. It is important to him to inspire others, particularly those in his
hometown and to show them that anything truly is possible with belief and hard work. While Porter wasn’t able to see him compete in the Olympics, Isley carries the belief his coach had in him and is fortunate to have his lifelong trainer Kay Koroma by his side through this next chapter. They have even added multi-time Olympic coach Al Mitchell to Isley’s team, giving him quite the 1-2 punch on his corner.