RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – London gold medallist Robeisy Ramirez will go up against rising star Shakur Stevenson for the bantamweight title at the Rio Olympics on Saturday in a mouthwatering Cuba-US boxing final showdown.
The 22-year-old Ramirez was an easy winner in his semi-final on Thursday while the teenage American did not even have to throw a punch after his Russian opponent failed to recover from his controversial quarter-final victory.
Relations between the US and Cuba are much improved from the Cold War and the two countries have restored ties, meaning the Ramirez-Stevenson clash will not have the political overtones of yesteryear.
But it still leaves two of the biggest talents in Rio to slug it out for gold and Stevenson, 19, is anticipating a cracker in what many observers believe should be the fight of the tournament in Rio.
The last time an American and a Cuban fought for an Olympic title was at Atlanta 1996, when US light-middleweight David Reid stopped Alfredo Duvergel.
“I think it will be a great match-up. He’s a great fighter and you’ve got the up-and-coming rising superstar from the USA, but I plan on coming out victorious,” said Stevenson.
“I like competitive fights but I want that gold medal and it’s going to be a great fight, I promise,” added Stevenson, who irrespective of the result will turn professional afterwards as part of Floyd Mayweather’s growing stable of boxers.
“Two skillful fighters and I want to come out on top. I’m ready,” he declared.
“I watched a lot of him. I already know what I’m in for and I know he’s a great fighter.
“I watched his semi-final fight. He got it done and made it look easy.”
Ramirez — who won the London Olympics title at flyweight before moving up to bantamweight — was far too good for the Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev in his semi-final, triumphing on unanimous points.
The United States and Cuba are the two most successful countries in Olympic boxing history, but Stevenson represents America’s last chance for men’s boxing gold in Rio.
Also Thursday, another Cuban, Arlen Lopez, similarly was victorious in his semi-final at middleweight to tee up a gold-medal bout with Uzbekistan’s Bektemir Melikuziev, also on Saturday. – Rappler.com
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