19-Year-Old Southpaw Dismantles Mongolian In Quarterfinals, Guaranteeing Him At Least A Bronze Medal

RIO DE JANEIRO (CBSNewYork) — Shakur Stevenson is officially guaranteed to come home from the Rio Olympics with a medal.

The color still has to be determined.

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Displaying superior technical skill, Stevenson, the 19-year-old from Newark, New Jersey, who many believe is the United States’ best chance for boxing gold since light-heavyweight Andre Ward completed the task in 2004 in Athens, outclassed Mongolia’s Tsendbaatar Erdenebat on points during Tuesday’s bantamweight quarterfinals.

Stevenson was asked after the bout to grade his performance and gave himself a B-minus.

“He was a tough kid,” Stevenson said of Erdenebat. “I’ve got to close out the show a little bit better. The third round, I’ve got to finish it off.”

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Stevenson’s unanimous decision assures him at least a bronze medal and moves him into Thursday’s semifinal showdown with Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin, who defeated Ireland’s Michael Conlan by the same 30-27 count in the first quarterfinal.

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In Tuesday’s matchup of southpaws, Stevenson used his jab to perfection, scoring at will against Erdenebat. When the Mongolian tried to push the tempo, Stevenson relied on exceptional footwork to put him in position to land numerous countering lefts.

He said he felt inspired by the presence of boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was taking in the action ringside and barking encouragement. Mayweather has said he believes Stevenson has all the makings of an all-time great.

“He kept saying ‘jab,’ and then he kept saying ‘go to the body.’ I heard him a lot,” Stevenson said, adding, “Of course I’ve got to listen, once I hear Floyd talking.”

The last American to win gold in the Olympic bantamweight division (56 kgs) was Kennedy McKinney in 1988 in Seoul. Stevenson will face a tough task against Nikitin in the semifinals. The 26-year-old Russian was relentless against Conlan, using a brawling, straightforward style against the Irishman, who seemed genuinely surprised when the decision was announced.

Stevenson said he has a specific plan in place for his bout with Nikitin.

“I’ll box him on the outside, because I’ve got the longer arms, I’ve got the reach. So I plan on boxing him, and winning that fight,” Stevenson said.

After receiving a bye in the first round, Stevenson defeated Brazil’s Robenílson Vieira de Jesus in the round of 16.

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Of the nine rounds Nikitin has fought in Rio, he has dropped just one.