Tearful Stevenson eyes pro stardom after Olympic heartbreak
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Shakur Stevenson says his Rio boxing final heartbreak will be his last Olympic experience and he is now focused on turning professional and becoming world champion one day.
The 19-year-old American broke down in tears and sobbed all the way through the media area after judges awarded their bantamweight gold-medal showdown to the Cuban Robeisy Ramirez on a split decision.
The hot prospect - named after the late rapper Tupac Shakur - was still downcast as he reluctantly received his silver medal.
"I don't plan going to the Olympics again. I want to go and win a world title and break records," Stevenson said a short time later, regathering some of the supreme confidence that has taken him from a tough upbringing to the brink of the professional big time.
American boxing legend Floyd Mayweather - now a promoter - said this week that Stevenson, the oldest of 9 siblings from a tough area of Newark, would one day be world champion and suggested that he had signed him for his stable of pro fighters.
"Nine times out of 10 I'm gonna turn pro but I haven't signed with anybody. I'm going to go back and look at my options and focus on that," said the teenager, who believed he had edged a high-quality contest against Ramirez, a 2012 flyweight gold medalist.
"Most definitely it was a close fight. I felt I'd won. The last 30 seconds he just threw a flurry but I don't think it landed. He's a good boxer, I'm going to come back stronger," said the American.
Put to him that his style - which has been compared to the defensively brilliant Mayweather's - might be more suited to the pro ranks, Stevenson said: "My style's my style, I'm a boxer: period.
"Professional, amateur, I can do both. I'm disappointed in myself and I'm going to come back stronger."
'Still a baby'
This was a classy and eagerly anticipated clash between two of the finest boxers on display in Rio.
And there was very little in it from the off, with the crowd firmly behind the Cuban and boos every time there were a smattering of chants of "USA! USA!"
The third round was especially cagey and close, although roars went up when Ramirez caught Stevenson with a combination that had him back on the ropes.
Stevenson was enjoying this, smiling at the punishment and the challenge in front of him.
But he looked in some more trouble at the end of the third as Ramirez closed on a second Olympic gold, and even beckoned the American on at the end - beating his chest and urging more from his foe.
Ramirez, 22, celebrated victory with a backflip that drew more cheers from the 9,000-seat arena.
"He's a boxer like any other and having the support of Mayweather doesn't make him invincible," said Ramirez.
US coach Billy Walsh said it was a fair verdict from the judges, who have been in the spotlight in Rio after some controversial decisions.
"A little bit more work in the last round and he could have won it, but he's very upset. He's young and he's showing his immaturity now, he's still a baby and it's a big occasion for him," said the Irishman.
"He's not distraught by the judges, he's just distraught by his loss. This kid has barely suffered a loss in his life.
"He's been youth champion, youth Olympic champion, he's won everything so it's hard for him to take, to be on the end of a defeat, especially in an Olympic final." – Rappler.com