Ramirez, Spence win opening bouts, Team USA now 4-0

U.S. Olympians Jose Ramirez and Errol Spence Jr. won their opening bouts of the 2012 London Games on Sunday, becoming the third and fourth members of Team USA to advance to round 16 of the boxing tournament.

Ramirez, of Avenal, Calif., pulled out a hard-fought 21-20 decision over France’s Rachid Azzedine and Spence, of Desoto, Texas, closed the night for Team USA with a 16-10 win over Brazil’s three-time Olympian Myke Carvalho de Ribeiro.

Ramirez competed first in Sunday’s evening action, facing veteran and World Series of Boxing champion Azzedine. The rangy 19-year-old Californian looked to get started early in the bout, and enjoyed success late in the round. He trapped Azzedine on the ropes and landed some strong shots at the conclusion of the opening round and held a one-point lead after the first.

Both boxers continued to let their hands go in the second round but Ramirez did not relinquish his lead, pushing his advantage to two with three minutes of boxing remaining. Azzedine attempted to dent Ramirez’s slim lead in the final round but he wasn’t able to do so and Ramirez won the 21-20 final decision. He moves on to a Thursday match-up with Fazliddin Gaibnazarov in his second round bout.

“There were some nerves coming in, being my first Olympics and being my first bout of the tournament,” Ramirez said. “Now, I feel like I shook those nerves out and hopefully I can just be me in the next bout and let my punches flow better, be smoother inside, and stay smart.”

Spence took the ring just 30 minutes later in a bout with Carvalho de Ribeiro, and it was clear early on that he was the superior boxer. The Dallas native got through his first day jitters and a bit of ring rust, controlling the pace throughout the contest. He took a 5-3 lead after one and the Brazilian boxer looked to combat Spence with several dirty tactics in the second round. The referee took a point from Carvalho de Ribeiro in the second for pushing Spence’s head down repeatedly and Spence held a 12-7 advantage at the end of two. He stayed to the game plan in the third round, winning a 16-10 final decision and pushing the American winning streak to four.

“The Brazilians have a style just like us. They fight like Americans and I was kind of getting used to his style. I wanted to use my jab and pick up the pace. I saw him get a little bit tired so I wanted to keep the pressure on him,” Spence said. “The first one is always the toughest one because you have the butterflies and I haven’t fought since March. I haven’t fought in awhile, at least five months. So to get the first one out of the way, and get my feet wet is good.”

Spence will return to the ring on Friday in a second round match-up with Krishan Vikas of India.

Light heavyweight Marcus Browne, Staten Island, N.Y., will be the only U.S. boxer competing in Monday’s action as he faces off with Australia’s Damien Hooper at 3:45 p.m. London time (10:45 p.m. ET).

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