Shakur Stevenson loses gold to Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba

American bantamweight Shakur Stevenson, who dazzled in his first two fights at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, spent the better part of the past two weeks with a big, broad smile plastered across his face, the picture of confidence and youthful excitement.

But that smile turned to uncontrollable weeping on Saturday afternoon moments after losing an extremely competitive and action-packed three-round split decision to Robeisy Ramirez, of Cuba, in the 123-pound gold-medal final on Saturday afternoon.

"I'm (emotionally) hurt. I feel like Cuba won," a choked-up Stevenson said.

As painful as the loss was for Stevenson, 19, of Newark, New Jersey, it was as joyful for Ramirez, 22, who won his second Olympic gold medal in a row following his flyweight championship at the 2012 London Olympics before he moved up in weight.

Stevenson was bidding to become the first U.S. man to win a boxing Olympic gold medal since Andre Ward -- Stevenson's favorite fighter - took home light heavyweight gold at the 2004 Athens Games.

Stevenson's silver medal is the first by an American man since Team USA claimed two of them in the 2000 Sydney Games: Ricardo Williams Jr. at light welterweight and Rocky Juarez at featherweight.

Team USA's men won one other medal in Rio, at light flyweight by Nico Hernandez, of Wichita, Kansas, a much-improved showing than they had in 2012, when they were shut out for the first time ever.

It was also better than the lone bronze medal won by Deontay Wilder at heavyweight in 2008 Beijing games.

Team USA can add one more medal to its boxing haul on Sunday, when Claressa Shields, of Flint, Michigan, goes for her second Olympic gold in a row when she fights Nouchka Fontijn, of the Netherlands, in the women's middleweight final.

Stevenson came into the final against Ramirez as the fresher of the two thanks to extra time off he received. While Ramirez was in a tough fight against Uzbekistan's Murodjon Akhmadaliev in Thursday's semifinals, Stevenson received a walkover into the gold-medal match because his semifinal opponent, Vladimir Nikitin of Russia, was too beat up following his controversial win over Ireland's Michael Conlan in the quarterfinals and withdrew from the tournament.

But it did not seem to help Stevenson as he was edged by fellow southpaw Ramirez. They were both very aggressive from the outset as Stevenson landed hard straight left hands and Ramirez worked the body well on the inside.

Stevenson landed an uppercut as the bell ended the opening round but all three judges gave it to the busier Ramirez. Stevenson, who landed several nice combinations and counter punches, won the close second round on all three scorecards.

The quest for gold came down to the final three minutes. The third round was action packed as it was clear both fighters sensed it was a very close fight. They engaged in heated exchanges, at one point Ramirez ripping Stevenson with a combination and Stevenson answering with an uppercut.

In the end, two judges gave the round to Ramirez and one to Stevenson, giving Ramirez the split decision victory. Stevenson, although very emotional, did not dispute the decision.

"I had to make it clear. I like all my fights to be clear victories," Stevenson said. "I feel he got his victory. Much respect to him."

At that point Stevenson broke down in tears, getting out, "I don't like to lose" before being unable to continue his interview with NBC's Chris Mannix.

CompuBox tracked the punches for the bout, finding that Ramirez landed 45 of 168 blows (27 percent) and that Stevenson connected with 44 of 134 (33%), showing just how close the match was.

Each round was also statistically very close. In the first round, Ramirez landed 14 of 58 to Stevenson's 16 of 51, in the second round Ramirez landed 13 of 47 to Stevenson's 11 of 38, and in the third round Ramirez landed 18 of 63 and Stevenson 17 of 45.

Stevenson is expected to now turn pro and several promoters are very interested in signing him, including Top Rank, which has had remarkable success in building Olympians into professional stars - most notably Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto - and Mayweather Promotions.

Mayweather even made the trip to Rio and cheered Stevenson on during his unanimous decision in the quarterfinals against Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, of Mongolia, on Tuesday.