By Cliff Rold
22-year old Errol Spence of Dallas, Texas, proved the third time no charm for Brazil’s 27-year old Myke Ribeiro de Carvahlo. Ribeiro was in his third Olympics but couldn’t overcome the slicker and more athletic American in opening round Sunday action in the Olympic Welterweight competition. Spence won every round and moves on by a score of 16-8.
The southpaw Spence, a three-time U.S. National Amateur Champion, landed two quick shots early as Ribeiro plodded forward behind a high guard. Finding Ribeiro difficult to find upstairs, Spence landed some single body shots as he stayed at range and picked his spots. Ribeiro received a warning for hitting on the break in the final minute of the first. Growing more comfortable, Spence opened up down the stretch and left Ribeiro locked in earmuffs. Spence led 5-3 after the first round.
Ribeiro came out with a thudding right to start the second but shortly found himself again trapped in his own defense. Spence wasn’t landing a ton clean, but Ribeiro wasn’t throwing. A stinging Spence left landed flush on a charging Ribeiro and a left came as well before the midway point. Spence took a right well. Spence put Ribeiro into the ropes with a right hook and knocked him off balance with a left. Ribeiro took a knee late to adjust headgear, his equipment just as difficult to find answers for as the quick-handed American in front of him. Riberiro suffered a formal warning for holding the head of Spence in the closing seconds, giving the judges an option to award Spence two extra points. Spence went to the corner with a commanding 12-7 advantage off a 7-4 second round.
Spence played safe to start the third and Ribeiro landed a pair of hard right hands before waking up more offense. Ribeiro received a caution for low blows. Spence landed a straight left to knock Ribeiro off balance with just more than a minute to go and added a nice right moments later. Ribeiro stopped punching late and Spence pawed while keeping his distance en route to a 4-1 third round and a 16-8 victory.
Asked about the U.S. team’s 4-0 start at the London Games following his bout Spence said, “It says a lot. We’re ready. We all worked hard…we just want to bring a Gold Medal home to America.”
Spence also answered questions about the fast start he got off to. “I just believed in myself, picked up the pace, and took the momentum away from him. I was little rusty, it’s the preliminaries, and then I got used to him.”
Spence moves on to the round of 16 where he will face the third-seeded fighter in the Welterweight division, Krishan Vikas of India. Vikas received a bye in the first round and will be a stern test when they square off on Friday.
U.S. Lightweight hopeful Jose Ramirez won his first bout of the 2012 Games on Sunday but it went down to the wire. Down two heading into the final round, France’s Rachid Azzedine posted a sensational rally to narrow the gap. It wasn’t quite enough but fans saw Ramirez advance on a score of 21-20 in one of the most exciting contests of the day.
Azzedine came out aggressive and landed the first scoring blows, a wise start against the naturally aggressive Ramirez. Ramirez stayed composed and looked to get his jab going, landing a nice right near the minute mark. Another came ten seconds later and he blocked two Ramirez shots with his shoulders. Azzedine landed a clean overhand right, Ramirez getting even inside with some hard body blows. Ramirez opened up strong late in the round, digging to the body and finding some rights upstairs with Azzedine on the ropes. Ramirez ended the round with a one-point edge, 6-5.
Blocking well upstairs, Ramirez didn’t let Azzedine make the first step in the second. Letting Azzedine step into range, Ramirez slipped in a sharp left hook just past the minute mark, Azzedine beginning to tie up. A big right hand rocked Azzedine but the Frenchman slowed the attack with a left. Azzedine shot a right perfectly with just more than thirty-second left with what appeared two scoring blows, right hands, in the closing seconds. Ramirez took the round 7-6 and carried a two-point lead to the final round.
A furious exchange opened the third, the crowd roaring as both men fired hard. They both landed right hands near the minute mark. Ramirez landed three body blows, getting close and forcing Azzedine to hold. Moments later, it was Ramirez tying up as Azzedine tried wide shots upstairs. Both men landed right hands and then Ramirez blasted with a left and right. A Ramirez attack saw scoring left hooks and straight rights as Azzedine went to the ropes and latched on. Azzedine landed two winging rights in the closing seconds as Ramirez came forward and it went to the judges.
Ramirez almost lost his lead. Azzedine was rewarded the third round on a 9-8 score but it wasn’t enough to overcome Ramirez’s lead in the first two rounds. Ramirez moves on to the round of 16 by a score of 21-20. Interviewed after the bout, Ramirez said he had no doubt he’d won when he heard the close score but felt a little rusty.
“I was a little tense, a little nervous, being my first bout, being my first Olympics. I knew I won. Perhaps the score was what it was.” Asked what he needed to do in the next round, Ramirez said, “Not be as tense. Start a little faster, let my punches flow.” Responding to what it’s like to fight at the Olympics in front of his father, Ramirez smiled. “It’s great. I know he’s here watching somewhere. It’s a great feeling knowing he saw me win my first Olympic fight.”
Ramirez will face Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov on Thursday. Gaibnazaraov was victorious on Sunday against Cameroon’s Abdon Mewoli, 11-6.
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 protected]