SUMIDA, Japan — Rashida Ellis drew a tough first-round opponent in the lightweight division at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, and the Lynn, Mass., native was behind from the opening bell in a stunning loss for the gold medal hopeful.
England’s Caroline Dubois had the height and reach advantage and was hardly intimidated by her favored opponent. She took the fight to Ellis, landing more shots and avoiding Ellis’s rush during the final seconds of each round.
Ellis lost, 29-27, on judges’ cards from Argentina, Tunisia, and Russia, while judges from Tajikistan and Kazakhstan saw the match 28-28. Ellis had a point deducted in the third round for hitting Dubois during a tie-up, but that would not have made a difference in the decision.
“I just wasn’t active enough,” said a dejected Ellis. “I should have thrown more punches.”
Ellis had sparred with Dubois previously and said her opponent did nothing that surprised. Dubois had to win a preliminary-round bout just to face Ellis, who received a bye. Ellis is 1½ inches shorter than Dubois, who began the fight by throwing inside punches and keeping Ellis off balance. Three judges had Ellis losing the first round and four ruled she lost the second. Needing a knockout in the third, Ellis was more aggressive, but Dubois was able to keep her distance and survive the barrage.
“She’s got fast hands, she was faster than me,” Dubois said. “We knew that she was going to bring something. I messed up a little at the end, but it was OK.”
Ellis was expected to slice through the early rounds and perhaps meet Ireland’s Kellie Harrington or Algeria’s Imane Khelif in a semifinal, but she never appeared comfortable or in control on Friday morning.
“She’s very funny,” Dubois said. “Before the fight she was talking loud, and I guess it’s just the American way, the way they are. But I didn’t let it bother me or anything, what she was doing. My game was to win and get an Olympic gold medal. She’s just a hurdle and not the goal.”
For Ellis, it was a disappointing end to a journey from being an standout basketball player at Lynn English, to following her brother’s footsteps into boxing, and making the Olympics seven years later.
“It was amazing to get here,” Ellis said. “I’m grateful for that. But I should have been more active.”