Cuba’s Julio Cesar La Cruz became the Rio 2016 Olympic Light Heavyweight (81kg) Boxing Champion on Thursday afternoon in Riocentro Pavilion 6 with a unanimous win over Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov.
It was another virtuoso display from the ever-confident La Cruz, who once again launched relentless, rapid-fire rights whilst proving a difficult target to score points against. Niyazymbetov found his rhythm and range as the match went on, but it was the Cuban who achieved his dream of the gold medal in emphatic fashion.
“All the hard work has paid off and I am so happy to have my name alongside the great Cuban boxers that have won every AIBA competition. I want to thank all my coaches, all the Cuban people that support us around the world,” said La Cruz after he became the first Cuban Light Heavyweight Olympic Champion.
Earlier on in the day’s session, crucial Semi-Finals took place in the Women’s Lightweight (51kg), Men’s Bantamweight (56kg) and Men’s Middleweight (75kg) competitions, with Britain’s defending Olympic Champion Nicola Adams facing the woman she beat in the London 2012 final, China’s Ren Cancan. It was Cancan who started the brighter, winning the first round with some flourishing attacks, but Adams battled back to assume the momentum as well as the next three rounds and march into the final.
Adams will try to retain her title against Sarah Ourahmoune of France, bronze medalist at the 2016 World Championships, after she delivered inspired second and third rounds to overcome a bold challenge from Colombia’s Ingrit Valencia.
The Men’s Bantamweight (56kg) Semi-Finals saw a walkover victory for USA’s Shakur Stevenson against the Russian Vladimir Nikitin, followed by a superb match between Cuba’s Olympic Flyweight Champion Robeisy Ramirez and Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan. The two boxers threw everything they had at eachother, but it was Ramirez’s lightening-fast attacks that proved decisive, setting up a hotly anticipated final against Stevenson on Saturday.
In the Men’s Middleweight (75kg) semis, Cuba’s Arlen Lopez again looked powerful against Azerbaijan’s Kamran Shakhsuvarly as he secured a unanimous victory and a place in the gold medal match. The second semi saw Mexico’s Misael Rodriguez face Bektemir Melikuziev of Uzbekistan, and the Uzbek put on a commanding display of attacking boxing to reach the final on what will be the penultimate day of the Games.