by Cliff Rold
Make that seven straight on the wrong side of the win/loss column. The struggles of U.S. Amateur Boxing have been well chronicled; medal counts have dropped precipitously from a strong 1988 team to now. Thursday in London, fans saw a little bit of two distinct ways to lose. In the first, America’s Lightweight lost in a fight where giving up an early lead cost him too much too soon. In the other, the world saw a U.S. fighter win a fight going away and get hosed by preposterous scores.
20-year old Lightweight Jose Ramirez was unable to erase a seven point deficit with a game effort in round three falling by a score of 15-11 to Uzbekistan’s 21-Fazliddin Gaibnazarov. Gaibnazarov employed was repeatedly cautioned for holding but never received an official warning and ran in a less than warriorly fashion for most of the last half of the bout. In the Olympics, that’s called boxing.
Ramirez landed first in the bout with a nice right hand and the two men cautiously looked for spot, the Uzbek southpaw looking to time lead rights and a left underneath. Gaibnazarov landed a shot as Ramirez went to the ropes but it was Ramirez with a pawing left back at center ring. Coming forward out of a corner, Ramirez backed his man up with two stiff right hands but Gaibnazarov collected himself and connected with a right. The Uzbek landed a right to the armpit and a quick right with the action at center ring. Ramirez landed a counter hook in the final twenty seconds as Gaibnazarov leapt in awkwardly, hands down. Gaibnazarov ended ahead 6-2.
Ramirez came out aggressive and ate a right for his troubles. Gaibnazarov started to mix in clinches but left space for a landing Ramirez head shot. Two stiff Ramirez lefts landed and he was in hot pursuit against a largely fleeing foe. Ramirez pushed and landed two rights, took a right and then connected with a glancing left as Gaibnazarov slid into and away from the red corner. Ramirez dug a left to the ribs in the blue corner and a right in the clinch, and added two quick lefts before the bell. Gaibnazarov won the round 6-3.
The approach of Gaibnazarov wasn’t fun to watch but he had a massive lead and no further reason to engage. He still managed to stick in a right and then backed Ramirez up with another before the round was thirty seconds old. The crowd chanted “USA” for the more aggressive man and Ramirez landed to the body. Ramirez clipped his man with a hard right, then another and Gaibnazarov was cautioned for holding. Ramirez landed three hard shots to the body, a right, took a right, and then landed another right of his own. A right glanced for Ramirez but a left seemed to land looked to hold. A straight left landed to the belly for Ramirez and he was the only man punching, or landing, for a long stretch. Gaibnazarov slipped to the floor and Ramirez hit him to the ribs while he was down, both men earning cautions. The crowd booed the cheap shot and both men fired into the bell. Ramirez took the third 6-3 but it wasn’t enough.
Ramirez was understandably dejected being interviewed on the air following the contest. He knew he got started with his best stuff too late. “I just couldn’t adjust to it. Maybe my (lack of) international experience. I can’t say much…I had too much patience.” Ramirez reflected on the scoring as well. “After the second round, I couldn’t believe how many points they were giving him.” Ramirez will head home wondering how many more he could have scored had he let loose in the first like he did in the third.
It was a fair defeat.
The same cannot be said for 24-year old Middleweight teammate Terrell Gausha of Cleveland, Ohio. Matched with 26-year old 2008 Bronze Medalist Vijender Singh of India, Gausha did more than enough to erase a narrow first round lead but failed to be rewarded for multiple, hard scoring blows in the bout. Gausha adds to the list of ignominious Olympic decisions by a score of 16-15.
Gausha came out stalking and let his hands go in combination. Singh looked to counter his aggression and landed a particularly clean right at about a minute in. Backing off and letting Singh come to him, it was Gausha with a couple of sneaky rights just past the halfway mark. Singh landed a perfect one-two and then another right seconds later. Trapping Gausha in the corner, the American escaped with a left to the body in a competitive first round. Gausha trailed by only a point at 4-3.
Starting the second behind the jab, Gausha was back to pressing but took a clean right for his trouble. Singh rolled away from two Gausha rights and landed a left hook. Gausha landed a left to the body and two quick rights over the top, both glancing. A big right landed to Singh’s body. Nearing the minute mark, Gausha landed both ends of the one-two and two rights to the body around the guard of Singh. Gausha caught Singh coming in twice with rights, then took a couple upstairs. Gausha landed a jab, Singh a right to the belly and head down the stretch of the round. The round was scored 5-5 though Gausha appeared to have done better than that.
With a one-point edge still favoring the Indian, Gausha needed a big third to reverse U.S. woes at the Games. Gausha was instantly the aggressor, sticking the jab and giving pursuit. Gausha landed a short right to the face spot on. A left and right landed for Gausha as the Indian fled and looked for counters; Gausha caught up and snuck in another short right and a left hook as the bout passed the first minute. Singh missed a sloppy left and ate a big time counter left in an exchange. Gausha landed a right just past the halfway mark and caught a sloppy Singh near the ropes and at center ring with some massive power blows. Both men landed rights in a late exchange as Singh posted a short rally but Gausha landed two more lefts before the end of the round in what should have been a lopsided score. It wasn’t. Gausha scored only even at 7-7, despite landing about twice as much, the first round lead holding through the bell.
Of the losses suffered by the U.S. Team, it was the first that could genuinely be regarded as a robbery. Gausha handled it like a gentleman in his post-fight interview. “I went out there and put everything into it. Hopefully I made everyone back home proud. I ain’t sure how they judged it, but I didn’t get the decision. It’s nothing to hold my head down about…God blessed me to be here. Put on a good show.”
Looking to the future, Gausha promised, “This ain’t the end of me. They’re gonna’ see a lot more of Terrell Gausha.”
Gausha will at least be able to say he scored one of the few knockouts of these 2012 Games so far, decking Armenia’s Andranik Hakobyan in the final seconds of their preliminary bout.
Both Ramirez and Gausha showed enough talent to mark them fighters to watch when they inevitably join the paid ranks upon their return stateside. The U.S. continues on whittled from nine men to just two. Rau’Shee Warren (Flyweight) and Errol Spence (Welterweight) have yet to compete in the round of sixteen and remain two wins from the medal rounds.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com Tags: Amateur Boxing