By Rob Wright
Ireland's Michael Conlan was beaten in his Olympic flyweight semi-final bout, losing 20-10 to the classy Cuban Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana.
Conlan battled bravely, always looking to come forward and take the fight to his opponent but he struggled against the watertight defence of Carrazana, who used his superior hand speed to pick off the Belfast fighter.
Winning every round and forcing Conlan to take a standing count in the third, Carrazana was comfortable throughout and will now fight for the gold.
The Belfast man can hold his head high after two hugely impressive victories at the London games, and he will bring home a bronze medal.
Conlan can fight both orthodox and southpaw, but he had his work cut out for him against the natural southpaw Carrazana, who at just 18, has already been tipped to turn professional after the Olympics.
The Belfast fighter started full of purpose and in the early stages showed more aggression than the Cuban fighter who was happy to tuck up behind his high guard.
A powerful right to the body gave Conlan the first scoring point of the match and Carrazana seemed wary to attack in the first round. When he did go forward, Conlan appeared to be ducking and weaving his way out of trouble.
Carrazana opened up in the final minute of the first, throwing several quick flurries that gave Conlan real trouble, but it was still a surprise when the scorecard at the end of the round read a very generous 6-3 in the favour of the Cuban.
But as kind as that three point lead was to Carrazana, he earned every single point he was awarded over the next two rounds and he controlled the pace and direction of the bout.
The 20-year-old Conlan, needing to chase down points in the second, continued to be the aggressor which played right into the counter-attacking hands of Carrazana.
Any time the Belfast man opened up Carrazana was able to get off two or three lightning fast punches such was his hand speed.
Conlan was again enjoying success with his body shots, scoring with a powerful right, but he was only picking up single points, where as Carrazana was landing with combinations and extended his lead to 10-6 by the end of the second.
Aware that a stoppage was now his most likely his only way to victory, Conlan gamely chased down the Cuban in the third, but enjoyed little success.
Carrazana was happy to stay out of trouble, continuing to work behind his watertight defence and tagging Conlan everytime he opened himself up to attack.
Conlan lost his discipline in the final minutes, abandoning the body shots that had been getting through in search of a killer blow that was never likely to come.
That lack of discipline cost him two more points when, after being rattled by a mean looking right hook, he turned his back on Carrazana. The Cuban pressed home his advantage, forcing Conlan up against the ropes and raining down punches on him, forcing a standing count.
As the bell went, Conlan sportingly went over the offer his congratulations to the Cuban corner and there was no surprise when Carrazana was named as the victor.
Speaking afterwards, Conlan admitted he had been beaten by the better man on the evening.
"He was the best fighter of the night. His defence was great, he was a better man than me," the Belfast fighter said.
"He didn't punch that hard but he was just sharp in his attacks. I was wasting a lot of energy throwing punches. I should have been waiting for my time but I was a bit eager tonight going for a gold medal.
"We have amazing support back home, all great fans, so I'm sorry for letting them down but you'll see me in the future and I'll be a lot better."