Delante 'Tiger' Johnson was three rounds away from becoming the first U.S. welterweight in more than 30 years to medal.
Then came along Roniel Iglesias to end that dream, while creating history of his own.
A valiant effort by Cleveland's Johnson came up short in his semifinal bout with Cuba's Iglesias, losing on all five scorecards as he was eliminated from welterweight competition Thursday evening at Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.
Scores were 30-27, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 in favor of Iglesias, a two-time Bronze medalist (2008, 2012) who is guaranteed his third Olympic medal.
Johnson opened the bout working his jab, looking to keep the Cuban southpaw on the outside and off rhythm. Iglesias—a record-tying four-time Olympian in search of a third medal—quickly adapted, cutting off the ring and forcing Johnson to the ropes.
The mid-round adjustment allowed Iglesias to dictate the pace and take the frame on all five scorecards. Johnson has been here before, as he trailed after three minutes versus Kazakhstan's Ablaikhan Zhussupov in the Round of 16.
As he rallied in that fight, Johnson did his best to adapt to Iglesias' tricks in round two. It all started with the jab, though Iglesias remained unfazed. The Cuban worked the body whenever the two were tied up on the inside and seemed to do the better work in the eyes of four of the five judges.
Johnson was given his marching orders in the corner to make something big happen in the third and final round. Iglesias largely played keep away, while Johnson measured up his foe in hopes of landing a game-changing shot.
The moment just wouldn't come. Iglesias would fire back just enough to force Johnson to take a step back, allowing the Cuban to reset. Johnson worked his way inside, doing his best to let his hands go the moment Iglesias was within punching range.
Johnson's Olympic journey included dramatic wins over Argentina's Brian Aguerri and then Zhussopov—eliminating two fighters with pro experience.
Iglesias boasts a different type of experience, the kind that's built to last on the Olympic circuit. Iglesias is now guaranteed his third medal, tying nine other fighters for the most in history.
The loss by Johnson puts the U.S. team at 10-6, with the men's team now 7-2 in Tokyo.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox