By Frank Gogola | Aug. 20, 2016, 6:53 p.m. (ET)
Shakur Stevenson (L) lands a blow in the men's bantam (56 kg.) against Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro on Aug. 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.


RIO DE JANEIRO — Boxer Shakur Stevenson was hoping to win a gold medal in men’s bantamweight (56 kg.), but his silver marks the best finish by a U.S. men’s boxer since Andre Ward won gold at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

The first-time Olympian won the silver medal when he lost a 2-1 split decision to Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez in the gold-medal match on Saturday at Riocentro — Pavilion 6. It may be Stevenson’s last fight at the Olympics as he looks to turn pro.

“Most likely, 9 times out of 10, I’m going to go pro,” Stevenson said. “Try to win some world titles and try to break records.

“[Fans] should expect me to be the best boxer coming up. I want to go in the pros, I want to break records, I want to win world titles. I’m not going to the pros with a gold medal, like I wanted, but, hey.”

Women’s middleweight boxer Claressa Shields, who will defend her London 2012 Olympic Games gold medal Sunday, consoled the usually charismatic Stevenson after the loss.

The 19-year-old had walked into the mixed zone after his fight with a towel draped over his head as he was crying. Shields took him outside, sat him down in a foldable chair, patted him on the back and offered up some words.

Stevenson didn’t remember what she had said because he was “crushed,” but he went back into the mixed zone, and he and Ramirez, who stopped his interview, hugged each other.

It was off to accepting his silver medal. Anything but gold felt like a loss to him at the moment, but the medal should hold more meaning over time.

“It’s been a great experience,” Stevenson said of the Rio Games. “Kind of like really disappointed in myself. Feel like I let a lot of people down. But, I feel like I’m going to be back stronger than ever.”

Stevenson started boxing at 5, when his maternal grandfather, Wali Moses, introduced him to the sport. He won his first bout at 8 and grew up idolizing Ward, the last American to win men’s boxing gold.

The Newark, New Jersey, native won the 2013 Junior World Championships, 2014 Youth World Championships and 2014 Youth Olympic Games, making him the first U.S. men’s boxer to win all three.

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Stevenson entered the Olympics with a 23-0 international record and won his first two bouts by unanimous decision before advancing from the semifinal via walkover.

Saturday, he added an Olympic Games silver medal to his collection. He lost to Ramirez, who won the gold medal in the men’s flyweight (52 kg.) division at the London 2012 Olympic Games, before moving up a weight class.

One the three judges scored in favor of Stevenson: 28-29, 28-29 and 29-28. All three judges ruled 10-9 for Robeisy in the first round. They all ruled 10-9 for Stevenson in the second. In the final round, Stevenson was on the short end of a 9-10, 9-10, 10-9 ruling.

“I think the scoring was fair,” said Team USA coach Billy Walsh. “I think just a couple of flurries in the last round that the Cuban had done that probably just stole it for him.”

While Stevenson was distraught after losing to Ramirez, he said he hopes to fight him professionally and promised a different outcome.

Stevenson’s silver gives the U.S. its second medal after light flyweight Nico Hernandez won bronze. Shields, who won the only U.S. boxing medal at the 2012 Games, will add a third with a gold or silver in her title bout Sunday.

“It’s been a tremendous Games for [Stevenson] and the male team,” Walsh said. “The USA in general has been fantastic. They’ve turned a corner from where they were the last couple of Games.”

Frank Gogola is a student in the Sports Capital Journalism Program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.