Shakur Stevenson's quest to become the first men's boxing gold medalist for the United States since 2004 fell short today in Rio, as he dropped a split decision to Cuba's Robeisy Ramírez, who is now a two-time gold medalist.
Stevenson, 19, had previously been unbeaten in international competition, including wins in Rio over Brazil’s Robenílson de Jesus and Mongolia’s Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, plus a walkover victory against Vladimir Nikitin of Russia in the semifinal.
But Ramírez, 22, was a new level of opponent for him. The Cuban was sensational four years ago in London, when at 18 he won the flyweight gold medal. Moving up to bantamweight this year, he was just as good, dominating fights with Shiva Thapa of India, Mohamed Hamout of Morocco, and Jiawei Zhang of China. In the semifinal, he defeated Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan in one of the best displays of boxing we’ve seen in Rio.
There was some ugliness to this fight, as both Stevenson and Ramírez are slick southpaws, crafty and hard to hit, with quick hands. It was Ramírez who let his hands go more, which won him the first round unanimously, and the third round on two of three cards. Stevenson took all three cards in the second round.
Stevenson is going to turn pro next, as he’s ready to sign a deal with Mayweather Promotions. He’s cited Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward — the last American male to win a gold medal -- as his inspirations in the ring, and really, the sky is the limit for Shakur Stevenson. At 19, he gave a tough fight to one of the best amateur boxers in the world.
The medal is the first for the United States at this weight since Clarence Vinson won bronze in 2000. The last time an American won gold at the weight was Kennedy McKinney in 1988.
Ramírez’s win makes it four of the last seven gold medals at bantamweight to go to Cuba, with Joel Casamayor winning in 1992, and Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2000 and 2004. The Cuban team has won at least bronze every Olympics since 1992.