Robeisy Ramirez edges Stevenson for bantamweight boxing gold

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) " Robeisy Ramirez and Shakur Stevenson are two of the top talents in the entire Olympic boxing tournament, and their bantamweight championship bout produced three rounds of tantalizing action.

When Ramirez's hand was raised afterward, Cuba had another two-time gold medalist.

Stevenson left the ring in uncontrollable tears, but also with a silver medal and a bottomless source of motivation for his upcoming pro career.

Ramirez claimed a split decision over the American bantamweight Saturday, celebrating with a standing backflip in the ring after a remarkable run in Rio de Janeiro.

"He's young, and he has big promise for boxing," the 22-year-old Ramirez said. "It was hard to fight against him."

Nicola Adams also claimed her second Olympic gold for Britain, defending her London flyweight title with a unanimous decision over France's Sarah Ourahmoune.

Middleweight Arlen Lopez capped the session by claiming Cuba's third gold and sixth overall medal in Rio, beating Uzbekistan's Bektemir Melikuziev with a stellar performance in a unanimous decision.

Ramirez and Stevenson put on a high-level exhibition for the crowd at Riocentro Pavilion 6, showing off athleticism and sophisticated boxing skill for three perilous rounds.

Ramirez backed up his flyweight gold medal from the London Olympics by moving up in weight and winning perhaps the most talented division in the Rio Games.

Stevenson was distraught after the first loss of his international career. Coach Kay Koroma and the fighter's family rallied around him for comfort, and Stevenson eventually gathered himself for the medal ceremony.

Stevenson was honest and sportsmanlike in defeat, saying he "definitely" didn't think he won.

"First round, he got," Stevenson said. "Second round, I got. Third round, he came and did what he was supposed to do. I had a game plan to try and outbox him the last round because I knew he was going to come forward. It didn't work. I didn't feel like it was my best performance."

Ramirez was aggressive in the third round, particularly in the final minute. Stevenson landed a flurry at the bell, but two of the three judges awarded the third to Ramirez.

Ramirez fought four times to reach the gold-medal bout, while Stevenson only fought twice after an opening bye and a walkover.

The victory capped a cycle of redemption for Ramirez, who was kicked off the Cuban national team in 2014 for repeatedly neglecting his training. He then failed to receive a first-round bye in Rio, forcing him to take a long road through a talented bracket.

"I kept thinking about all the people that supported me to get here," Ramirez said. "My family, my wife, my friends. They supported me not only through the good moments but the bad. When I had to take a year off, that gave me time to mature and think about what I wanted to do. That is boxing."

Ramirez and Stevenson could be rivals for years if Ramirez elects to go pro outside Cuba. The thought already came to Stevenson after he stopped sobbing and began to contemplate his upcoming pro career.

"Congratulations to him," Stevenson said. "He had a better third round. But hopefully we get to meet down the line in the pros."

Ramirez said he will be focused on winning a third or fourth gold medal, but his past conflicts with the Cuban team have made some promoters hopeful that he might try the pros eventually.

Adams completed her comfortable run through the flyweight bracket with another exhibition of her skill. She survived a mid-fight charge from Ourahmoune to become the first two-time women's Olympic boxing champion, although U.S. middleweight Claressa Shields could join her Sunday.

Adams became the world champion, European champion and Olympic champion all in one year.

"I wanted to create history," she said after crying on the medal stand. "There's definitely an air of fulfillment. There's still a lot more that can be done. I'd love to inspire some markets to get involved in boxing."

Lopez, the middleweight world champion, closed the show with another remarkable effort against a top talent. He battered the 20-year-old Melikuziev with precise punches that eventually opened a cut on his eye.

After starting his tournament with a percussive knockout, Lopez seemingly improved in each round before soundly outboxing Melikuziev, whose power and potential made him one of the Rio Games' breakout stars.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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