For Andrew Selby, this was supposed to be a triumphant experience, before fans in his home country with a real opportunity to win a gold medal in the Olympics.
But it wasn’t to be.
Selby, a Welshman representing Great Britain, seemed well-positioned to be able to at least fight for a gold medal. After all, he was the #2 seed in the tournament and rated #1 in the entire world by the AIBA (International Boxing association), mostly by virtue of a title in last year’s European Amateur Championships.
Maybe he didn’t count on running into a determined young Cuba boxer who is emerging as a star in these Olympics.
Robeisy Ramirez came into this competition rated only #34 by AIBA, a curious decision at best for the organization, considering that he had done very well in international competition of late, getting to the third round of the World Amateur Championships before losing to world #1 Misha Aloian, and winning the gold medal at the Pan Am games last year.
These two engaged in one of the more spirited bouts of the day. Ramirez, who is just 18 years of age, is the one who boxed like a veteran against the 23-year-old Selby.
His approach was extremely effective, from the first round forward. Ramirez holds his hands up to his head, making it very difficult for an opponent to get through. Selby is a slick fighter; he switches easily from the orthodox stance to southpaw and back, throws punches in combinations and moves very well from side to side. But his problem in this fight is that he was not throwing punches with enough force to really get through Ramirez’s guard.
Time after time, Ramirez would pick off his blows and then land something with more authority. He is a sharp, accurate puncher, and this apparently impressed the judges, who gave him a 5-4 lead at the end of the first round, with an even bigger advantage (7-3) at the conclusion of the second.
Selby sensed that he had to get more of an effective offense going in the third, and it seemed he did, with a body attack that he probably should have employed earlier. But he was not going to make up a lot of ground that way, so even though he was able to notch an even round (4-4), it did not come close to tipping the verdict in his favor.
The next step for Selby is the pros, where his brother Lee has already achieved some success, winning the British and Commonwealth featherweight titles. Meanwhile, Ramirez’s magic carpet ride continues. He is already guaranteed a medal, and next up he’ll face another fighter who is likely to have a healthy following when he takes on Michael Conlan of Ireland, a 22-18 winner over France’s Nordine Oubaali in an earlier bout. The winner of that bout gets to fight for the gold, and it’s there that Aloian may await. And Ramirez will have a chance to show he’s learned his lessons well.