Julio Cesar La Cruz became Cuba’s first-ever Light Heavyweight (81kg) World Champion on Day Thirteen of the Rio 2016 Olympic Boxing Tournament, beating Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov in a memorable final. The crowds had once again filled up the Pavilion 6 arena in Barra, and La Cruz rose to the occasion to complete a magnificent Olympic campaign to the delight of the hundreds of Cuban fans.
Number-one seed and three-time World Champion La Cruz had a tough route to Thursday’s final, but comfortably overcame Turkey’s Mehmet Unal on Day Five before a rousing battle with Brazil’s Michel Borges in the last sixteen. French revelation Mathieu Bauderlique provided stiff opposition in Tuesday’s Semi-Final, but La Cruz boxed like a man with only one result on his mind, taking his lightening-fast counter attacking style right through to the final bell and a unanimous points win.
“I’m very happy to have reached my goal and become the Olympic champion, all the hard work has paid off. It is amazing to have my name alongside other great Cuban boxers that have won each of the AIBA competitions and to be the first Cuban 81kg boxer to win the Olympic title. Right now I am thinking of my mother, because I know she will be delighted as she has always supported me. I want to thank all my coaches, all the Cuban people that support us around the world and the AIBA family,” said La Cruz after his final.
The Light Heavyweight silver went to Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov, and Mathieu Bauderlique of France and Britain’s Josh Buatsi won the two bronze.