As a die hard boxing fan, I get really excited whenever the summer olympics come around because we get to see a showcase of some of the worlds best fighters and future world champions. For those that don’t follow boxing as closely, Olympic boxing is to professional boxing what college football and basketball are to the NFL and NBA. Many of the fighters that we know and love…or loathe today, Andre Ward, Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, Oscar de la Hoya, and Floyd Mayweather – just to name a few – all had their starts in amateur athletics and won Olympic gold medals representing the USA.
With the constant changes in the rules, structure, and even gear, Olympic style boxing has had it’s ups and downs throughout the past two decades. Mens USA boxing and Olympic hopefuls have struggled to bring home the gold over the last decade, Andre Ward being the last to do so in 2004.
That said, we finally have someone that has a chance to bring it home for us this year. Bantamweight (56kg) Shakur Stevenson, a native of Newark, NJ will compete in the gold medal match today at 1:15PM EST. At 19 years of age, Shakur Stevenson shows plenty of promise and has all of the tools to have made it to the pinnacle of amateur boxing, the Olympic gold medal match. What impresses me most about Stevenson is at such a young age, he has such a high boxing IQ. In other words, situational awareness, and he can adapt well to any style he’s confronted with and do what is necessary to win.
Though Stevenson has made it to the gold medal match, he is not out of the woods yet. Stevenson will face the defending 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, Robeisy Ramirez. Robeisy (or RoBEASTY, as I like to call him) Ramirez is a different breed of amateur pedigree. He IS poetry in motion, he IS that…when people enter tournaments and get matched up with him, their coaches might say, “do the best you can” type of fighter. Amateur boxing has always been about scoring points and staying busy, about quantity and hustle. With so many rule changes to scoring it has made for a lot of questionable decisions and some might even say robberies in matches due to insufficient scoring systems (a la Roy jones jr Seoul Olympics, 1988). With the new scoring in place it makes for a more fan friendly style where it’s the quality that matters.
In my opinion, this gold medal match is going to come down to who will succeed in imposing their will on the other, who will be able to adapt, who will be the smarter fighter. It’s honestly too close to call. One thing is for sure is that it will be a barn burner. Make sure you tune in!