RIO DE JANEIRO — U.S. boxer Shakur Stevenson has reached the Olympic bantamweight final after Russian semifinal opponent Vladimir Nikitin was ruled out with an injury.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) confirmed Thursday that Stevenson advanced by walkover.
Stevenson will fight in Saturday’s final against either Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez or Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev.
Stevenson will win either gold or silver, the first of either medal for American men since Andre Ward’s gold in 2004. Combined with light flyweight Nico Hernandez’s bronze medal, the U.S. men will leave the Olympics with two medals also for the first time since Athens 12 years ago.
Nikitin sustained heavy damage in three consecutive brutal fights, culminating in a pounding Tuesday from Irish world champion Michael Conlan. Nikitin still received the decision in a hard-fought bout, prompting an outraged Conlan to denounce AIBA and Russia as conspirators in corruption.
Conlan’s potential semifinal matchup with Stevenson was one of the most anticipated bouts of the Rio tournament.
Nikitin also won a disputed decision over Thailand’s Chatchai Butdee before taking on Conlan. The Russian started his tournament by beating Vanuatu’s Boe Warawara in a bout that left Nikitin bleeding grotesquely from a cut on his shaved scalp, and the cut opened up in each of his two ensuing fights.
Stevenson is an elite 19-year-old prospect from Newark, New Jersey, with sophisticated boxing skills and incredible athleticism. He hasn’t lost an international bout in his amateur career.
He received a preliminary-round bye as a seeded fighter in Rio before beating Brazil’s Robenilson de Jesus and Mongolia’s Erdenebat Tsendbataar, both by unanimous decision.
Stevenson has been widely expected to begin his pro career with Top Rank Promotions this fall, but Floyd Mayweather tweeted Wednesday that he wished to “extend a warm welcome to @ShakurStevenson into The Money Team family.” Mayweather runs an eponymous promotional company, but has no stars under contract with the potential drawing power of Stevenson.
Stevenson didn’t immediately confirm he had teamed up with Mayweather to be his promoter or in another capacity, but Stevenson spoke glowingly of the retired champion after meeting him earlier in the Rio tournament. Mayweather, who attended Stevenson’s fights, subsequently refereed to Stevenson as “the next Floyd Mayweather.”
Stevenson is expected to attend the other bantamweight semifinal at Riocentro Pavilion 6 on Thursday.
He will have a difficult matchup in the final against either Ramirez, the flyweight gold medalist at the London Olympics, or the second-seeded Akhmadaliev, whose impressive tournament has included a first-round knockout of Argentina’s Alberto Melian. Stoppages are rare at the amateur sport’s lower weights.
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