It has been 20 years since the United States and Cuba have met in a boxing gold medal bout at the Olympic Games. Yet, another chapter will be added to the long history of epic match-ups between the top two medal producers in Olympic boxing on Saturday. Junior and Youth World Champion and Youth Olympic Games gold medalist Shakur Stevenson (Newark, N.J.) and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba will meet at Riocentro Pavilion 6 in Rio de Janeiro for the greatest prize in Olympic boxing. One of the most highly anticipated match-ups of the 2016 Olympic Games, the bantamweight finale features two highly skilled, intelligent boxers battling it out for Olympic gold.
Stevenson had not even been born the last time an American boxer faced a Cuban in an Olympic finale. It was two decades ago when American light middleweight David Reid knocked out Cuba’s Alfredo Duvergel in the final round of a championship bout that Reid was losing badly. After the referee counted Duvergel out, Reid ran to his corner and jumped in to the arms of his coach Al Mitchell as the crowd in Atlanta cheered his victory.
While the Stevenson-Ramirez bout is likely to play out a bit differently than the Reid’s contest, the 19-year-old American star is aware of the history he can make in Saturday’s bout. A boxing junkie, Stevenson watches endless boxing video, and he took a moment to check out Reid’s gold medal winning moment on Thursday night in the Olympic village.
Yet many of the greatest moments in the USA vs. Cuba rivalry took place before even Stevenson’s mother, Malikah, was born. The 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal featured three USA vs. Cuba battles in the championship round. Three American boxers took gold with victories over the Olympic boxing powerhouse 40 years ago. Boxing icon Sugar Ray Leonard launched to super stardom after his unanimous decision win over Cuba’s Andres Aldama in their light welterweight gold medal bout. In the flyweight division, Leo Randolph won Olympic gold with a split decision win over Ramon Duvalon of Cuba. Last but certainly not least, future heavyweight champion of the world Leon Spinks stopped Cuba’s Sixto Soria in the third round of their light heavyweight bout to win his Olympic gold medal.
While the last American man to win Olympic gold didn’t face a Cuban in his Athens run, he has been happy to provide guidance to Stevenson throughout his Olympic journey. As Ward prepared for his Olympic gold medal bout, he spoke to 1996 Olympic champion David Reid and Stevenson has stayed in contact with Ward as he prepares for the biggest fight of his life. Although the technology has changed a bit from 2004 to 2016, going from a basic phone call to FaceTime, Ward certainly hopes that it has the same result and Stevenson joins him in the Olympic gold medalist club.
If Stevenson is successful on Saturday, he will become the first American bantamweight to win Olympic gold since Kennedy McKinney in 1988.
Stevenson and Ramirez will compete in the bantamweight Olympic final on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. Brazil time (1:15 p.m. ET) at Riocentro Pavilion 6. While the broadcast time is currently being finalized, the bout will be streamed live via NBCOlympics.com.
2012 Olympic gold medalist will compete in her semifinal bout today at 3:30 p.m. Brazil time (2:30 p.m. ET) against Kazakhstan’s Dariga Shakimova. A victory in today’s bout will advance Shields to the women’s middleweight gold medal bout on Sunday. To watch the live stream of Shields’ bout, click here.