Team USA boxer makes history for Cuba

Yarisel Ramirez was born in Guantanamo, lives in Las Vegas and was the last to be called to Tokyo a week ago.

by Miguel Hernandez

(ATR) Boxer Yarisel Ramirez was the latest athlete called up to the large U.S. Olympic delegation to become its 614th member.

Ramirez will be Team USA’s first representative in women’s Olympic featherweight (57 kg/125 lbs.) boxing since the sport’s debut at London 2012.

Yarisel Ramirez training (Team USA)
Yarisel Ramirez training (Team USA)

But the presence in Tokyo of the 22-year-old fighter, born in Guantanamo, Cuba, will also be historic for boxing in her home country where the authorities still do not officially recognize the practice of women’s boxing.

Ramirez will be the first Cuban to compete in an Olympic Games boxing tournament and she will do so under the Stars and Stripes. And she could also become the first fighter from the Caribbean island to win an Olympic medal.

Already in the summer of 2019 she was a bronze medalist at the Pan American Games in Lima.

Ramirez is possibly the first Cuban-born member of a U.S. national boxing team.

The pugilist has lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, for 17 years, shortly after her parents emigrated from the communist island to the United States. She was attracted to boxing when she joined a gym to lose weight. Since 2011 her father Rafael has been her trainer.

The Cuban-American was training in Japan with the other members of Team USA without having qualified for the Olympic tournament, but hoping to be called up through the last quotas allocated by the IOC Boxing Task Force. And so it happened.

A week ago USA Boxing officials gave her the good news that she had become the 10th member of the Olympic team.

Ramirez has joined Keyshawn Davis, Rashida Ellis, Virginia Fuchs, Naomi Graham, Troy Isley, Delante Johnson, Oshae Jones, Duke Ragan and Richard Torrez Jr. Cuba’s national team will field seven boxers, all in the men’s tournament.

“We are thrilled to have Yarisel round out our team for Tokyo,” said USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee. “Yarisel has been in this final training camp working very hard, waiting for this opportunity if her name was called. Throughout this entire process, Yarisel has shown nothing but maturity, determination and the drive to fulfill her Olympic dreams.”

Yarisel Ramirez won a bronze medal at Lima 2019. (Team USA)
Yarisel Ramirez won a bronze medal at Lima 2019. (Team USA)

The Cuban-American featherweight accumulated points for the IOC Task Force’s Olympic qualification with her third place finish at the 2019 Pan American Games and for her performance at the 2019 Women’s Elite World Championships. Ramirez was a silver medalist at the 2015 World Junior Championships.

As such, the U.S. will have representatives in all five divisions of the women’s tournament in Tokyo.

Ramirez was the fourth Team USA fighter to earn this additional last-minute quota behind Duke Ragan, Keyshawn Davis and Troy Isley.

These three boxers were signed as professionals during the coronavirus pandemic. As members of Team USA they achieved outstanding performances between 2017 and 2019 that booked them high marks at the international level.

According to historians Ragan, Isley and Davis will become the first senior professional fighters to compete for the United States in Olympic Games.

Ramirez’s first fight will be on July 24, the opening day of competition in Tokyo and exactly two weeks after he joined the national team.

Guantanamo, where Yarisel was born, more than 930 km. east of Havana, is the cradle of nine Olympic gold medals in boxing: Felix Savon (3), Angel Herrera (2), Rogelio Marcelo (1), Joel Casamayor (1), Yuriorquis Gamboa (1) and Arlen Lopez (1).

She has not yet decided if she will sign as a professional and has not set aside the illusion of entering college either.

“For now I’m only thinking about the Olympics.”

While Yarisel Ramirez is on the verge of making boxing history in her native country through Team USA, in Cuba women continue their long wait to officially step into the ring.