Lightweight Jose Ramirez advanced to the second round as the Olympic boxing tournament continued at the ExCel QArena in London.
Ramirez beat Raynell Williams in the Olympic Trials and has also been the US national champion in the lightweight division. His opening round match against Rachid Azzedine of France was not easy. The first stanza had plenty of action, as Azzedine used aggressiveness to stave Ramirez off. In fact, the first two rounds were both close, and Ramirez only led by two points as the boxers went to the third round.
In the last three minutes there was desperation the part of both men. Unlike pro boxing, in the amateur ranks at this level, both corners know where they stand and what they have to do. So the bout was up for grabs, and Ramirez tried hard to protect his lead with a persistent body attack. Azzedine did his best to answer the challenge, landing a couple of good shots in response to a Ramirez charge right before the final bell.
In the final analysis of the judges, Ramirez held on by the narrowest of margins, with a 21-20 victory. His reward is to face Fazliddin Gaibnazrov of Uzbekistan in the second round of the men’s lightweight bracket. Gaibnazrov came into the Olympics as the #16-rated competitor at 60 kg by AIBA. Ramirez is not currently a world-rated boxer with AIBA.
A student at Fresno State, the 19-year-old Ramirez also holds a job at Starbucks in his native Avenal, CA. He clinched his 144th amateur win with Sunday’s victory. After winning the Trials, he went to the semifinals of the Americas Continental tournament in Brazil, where he was able to secure his spot in the Olympic draw.
The road to a medal will not be easy for Ramirez. The lightweight class is one of the most competitive, and there are several other star competitors in the division. There is Vasyl Lomachenko of the Ukraine, who some consider to be the best amateur boxer, pound-for-pound, in the world. There is also Cuba’s Yasnier Toledo, and Turkey’s Fatih Keles, who won last year’s European Amateur Championships.
Then, of course, there is Italy’s Domenico Valentino, a former world champion who is currently rated #1 in the world by AIBA. Ramirez will eventually have to get by Valentino if he wants to have any chance for a medal.
In other notable lightweight action on Sunday, Keles skated by his first-round match by beating Abdelkader Chadi of Algeria 15-8. This was something of a showdown, truth be told, as it matched up the #3 (Keles) and #4 (Chadi) lightweights in the world as determined by AIBA. Great Britain’s Josh Taylor defeated Robson Conceicao of Brazil 13-9.
Gani Zhailauov of Kazakhstan, who is #8 in AIBA, had an unexpectedly hard time with the #40-ranked Saylom Ardee of Thailand, winning a tie-breaker on the “countback” after the bout was tied at 12-12 after three rounds. In what could be considered something of a mild upset, Qiang Liu of China scored an easy 20-7 decision over Luke Jackson of Australia, who was the #5 lightweight in the AIBA rankings. Jai Bhagwan of India (#12 in AIBA) beat Andrique Allisop of the Seychelles, and Soon Shul Han of the Republic of Korea beat Mohamed Eliwa of Egypt by an 11-6 count.
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