RIO DE JANEIRO — When Mikaela Mayer won the first round of her lightweight quarterfinal bout with third-seeded Russian Anastasia Belyakova, it appeared the draw was breaking perfectly for her.
In the morning session, top-seeded Katie Taylor of Ireland and fourth-seeded Yana Alekseevna of Azerbaijan were both ousted. No. 2 seed Estelle Mossely of France, fighting immediately after Mayer, won a unanimous decision over Irma Testa of Italy.
A win over Belyakova would have earned Mayer a medal and, more importantly, pushed her into a wide-open semifinal with only Mossely a seed. But in an incredibly close fight, the judges gave a slight edge to Belyakova, who took a majority decision.
Judges Hassan Moudrikah and Jones Kennedy Silva do Rosario had it 39-37 for Belyakova, while judge Ming Li Liu had it even, 38-38. Yahoo Sports also had it even, giving Mayer Rounds 1 and 4 and Belyakova the middle two, the same as Liu.
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Thus, Mayer’s long-shot dream of a medal died. Predictably, U.S. coach Billy Walsh wasn’t pleased with the verdict.
“At the end of the day, we probably had to knock her out to get a draw,” said a disgusted Walsh while walking away.
It was a disappointing loss for Mayer, particularly because the fight was right there for her to take. She moved a lot and popped the jab, while Belyakova was more flat-footed and was winging the right hand.
If Mayer had a flaw, it was getting caught too much by Belyakova’s right. Mayer conceded it was close and was none too confident when she stood in the center of the ring with the referee awaiting the verdict.
“I thought I did enough to win, but I knew it was close,” she said. “You never know what the judges are seeing. I guess they just didn’t see it our way.
“The game plan was to let that 1-2 go and let her fall into my jab, because she’s not a mover. She puts pressure on besides her being tall and long. I knew she’d run into our shots, but her punch count was high, too. She was throwing when I was throwing. It was a very action-packed fight.”
Other than the second, there was no agreement between the judges on any of the rounds. In the first, Liu and Moudrikah gave it to Mayer. All three saw the second for Belyakova, while Liu and Moudrikah had Belyakova in the third.
In the decisive fourth round, Moudrikah and Silva do Rosario scored it for Belyakova, despite the fact that the cleaner shots in that round were landed by Mayer.
“Honestly, I thought she’d done enough,” Walsh said. “She outboxed her. She got to her first, hit her first. Clean 1-2 or a jab.”
Mayer, though, knew it would be a tough one because both women threw so many punches.
“We were both throwing a 1-2 at the same time,” Mayer said. “Yeah, I could see that, even if I was landing, she was landing, too. That’s why I knew it was going to be close, because some of those exchanges were tricky to judge.”
So Mayer is out, leaving the U.S. boxers cumulatively with a 10-5 record and three fighters still alive: light welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell and bantamweight Shakur Stevenson, who each have fights for a medal on Tuesday, and middleweight Claressa Shields, the reigning gold medalist who starts her tournament Wednesday.