Two young American boxers put on stellar performances in their quarterfinal bouts in Tuesday’s Olympic competition. Bantamweight Shakur Stevenson (Newark, N.J.) extended his undefeated international record and clinched a spot on the medal podium with a victory in his quarterfinal match-up. Light welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell (Capitol Heights, Md.) seemed to put on a clinic in his quarterfinal bout but the judges saw it differently on Tuesday afternoon.
Stevenson stepped in to the ring first on Tuesday at Riocentro Pavilion 6 and as the 19-year-old walked to the ring, he heard the the great Floyd Mayweather, Jr., cheering him on. Stevenson give Mayweather the show he came to see in his quarterfinal bout with Mongolia’s Tsendbaatar Erdenebat. The Mongolian was aggressive and wild to start the bout, looking to impose his will on the young American. Yet Stevenson had other plans for the bout. Stevenson settled in and began to land long shots from the outside. He closed the round with great work to the body to take the first round on all of the judges’ scorecards. In the second round, he used his movement and footwork to turn the Mongolian boxer and set up his own shots. His efforts earned Stevenson a two round lead as the final round began. Stevenson landed several stiff jabs early in the third and went back to the body late in the bout to secure his second straight unanimous decision victory.
“It was a B- performance. It was better than yesterday but I have to close out the show a little bit better. In the third round, finish it off. Put the icing on the cake. My grandfather (Wali Moses) taught me that boxing is the art of hitting and not being hit so I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid and I’m going to keep doing it,” Stevenson said. “He felt my power, I know he felt my power. In the third, I’m thinking maybe he’s going to quit but he was still throwing some wild, loopy shots trying to get the knock out. He hit me probably once or twice but I kept the game plan and I did what I was supposed to do.”
Stevenson didn’t an arena full of boos like he did in his last bout but the presence of Mayweather certainly caught his attention as he prepared to walk to the ring. “When I came out and saw Floyd Mayweather, I got excited and a little nervous. As soon as I came out of the hall, I saw him right there leaning over the balcony yelling,” Stevenson said.
Mayweather was vocal throughout the bout and Stevenson heard his voice and instructions. “He kept saying jab and then he kept saying go to the body. I heard him a lot. He’s been in the same situation before and he’s mastered boxing so of course I have to listen when I hear Floyd talking,” he said.
With two wins under his belt and a medal secured, Stevenson feels we haven’t seen the best of him. “I felt like I needed to close the show and I didn’t get to close the show the way I wanted to. The next fight I’m going to try to make sure that my third round is just as good as my first. I’ve gotta stay focused and get what I came here for. I didn’t come for silver and I didn’t come for bronze. I’ve got to get the gold,” Stevenson said.
Just one bout after Stevenson exited the ring, it was Russell’s turn to compete for an Olympic medal. He walked to the ring determined to win his quarterfinal contest with Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov and he did everything in his power to accomplish his goal. Russell showcased his exceptional hand speed and ring generalship early in the bout as the boxer from Uzbekistan moved around the ring and looked to hold Russell. He turned up the heat in the second, stalking Gaibnazarov and unloading combinations. The two engaged early and often in the second round but the American fell behind after two rounds on the cards. Russell came out firing with several thundering punches in the third round, looking to hurt Gaibnazarov and he connected with multiple hard shots that seemed to impact his opponent. Despite his best efforts, Russell lost a split decision in his quarterfinal contest, eliminating him from the tournament one win short of an Olympic medal.
“In the two second rounds, I believe I pulled away from him. I won them hands down. Even though it was sloppy, I believe I did more than enough to outscore him. Be the aggressor and more. I gave it my all. Congratulations to the guy that I fought. He got the victory. Hopefully he’ll go on and continue to have a great career,” Russell said after the bout. “I’ve got high expectations. I set the bar for myself very high. I’m trying to live up to a family legacy and then some. Outside looking in, I know that a lot of people believe I won.”
2012 Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.) will make her long awaited 2016 Olympic debut on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. Brazil time (1:30 p.m. ET) against Iaroslava Iaukushina. A victory in tomorrow’s middleweight quarterfinal bout will guarantee Shields her second Olympic medal.
123 lbs/56 kg: Shakur Stevenson, Newark, N.J./USA dec. Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, MGL, 3-0
141 lbs/64 kg: Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, UZB, dec. Gary Antunne Russell, Capitol Heights, Md./USA, 2-1