Boxing powerhouse Cuba brings to the London 2012 Olympic Games eight supremely gifted boxers all seeking to claim gold medals. The impressive squad has amongst others two current AIBA World Champions, an Olympic bronze medallist and a Youth Olympic Games winner, enough to rival the best of the best. It promises to be a spectacular tournament with the Cubans involved.
With a rich history in the sport and standing second in the overall ranking for Olympic boxing medals, Cuba had, by its high standards, an underwhelming tournament at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games after taking 'only' eight medals, none of which were gold. The legendary three-time Olympic Heavyweight Champion Félix Savon expects this talented group of fighters to come to the fore this year and predicts that several will claim the top prize in London.
The country's Light Flyweight (46-49kg) No.1, AIBA World Championships quarter-finalist Yosbany Veitia Soto, has won four international tournaments this year and has a perfect record since the last Panamerican Games where he took a silver medal so will now be hunting for glory in the British capital. The 20-year-old southpaw has the skills to create a sensation in London and is considered to be the team's secret weapon.
18-year-old Youth Olympic Games winner and AIBA Youth World Champion Robeisy Eloy Ramirez Carrazana claimed the gold medal at the Panamerican Games last year but has since struggled for form. Despite several surprise defeats in 2012, the young Cuban Flyweight (52kg) is still a strong medal contender at the Olympic Games as he has all the attributes to overawe all of his rivals on route to a potential gold medal.
AIBA World Champion Lazaro Jorge Alvarez Estrada is another yet to reach his peak this year; however the word is that the 21-year-old has been saving himself for London where he aims to take the Bantamweight (56kg) category by storm. The precise punching southpaw has the hand speed and the range to dominate most of his opponents at the Olympic Games. He will be hard to beat if he replicates the form he showed at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011 where he was victorious against the tough Tajik Anvar Yunusov and Great Britain's Luke Campbell.
Panamerican Games winner Yasnier Toledo Lopez was a silver medallist at the last edition of the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku where he lost to living legend Vasyl Lomachenko of Ukraine in the Lightweight (60kg) final. His footwork is rated as one of the best in the world and the 26-year-old southpaw has been working extremely hard this past year with the sole aim of toppling his Ukrainian nemesis at the Olympic Games in order to reach the top of the podium.
Cuban Light Welterweight (64kg) No.1 Roniel Iglesias made a name for himself back in 2005 when he surprised everyone by winning the Flyweight (52kg) title at the Cuban National Championships at the age of 16. Following his sensational debut at the elite level, Iglesias joined up with the national squad before securing a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games before claiming the gold at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Milan 2009. After a shock loss in his first bout at the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku, the 23-year-old came back with a bang by winning the AIBA American Olympic Qualifying Event Rio 2012 and is now determined to be crowned champion in London.
Team captain Julio Cesar de la Cruz Peraza, the reigning AIBA World Champion, is the firm favourite for the Light Heavyweight (81kg) gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games after dominating all of his rivals in the Azeri capital last year. The fleet-footed 22-year-old orthodox Cuban with the sumptuous right hand has the mentality and the tournament experience to outclass the likes of Russia's former AIBA World Champion Egor Mekhontcev, Uzbekistan's Elshod Rasulov and Kazakhstan's Adylbek Niyazymbetov who have all travelled to London in search of ultimate glory.
Jose Angel Larduet Gomez was a gold medallist at the 2008 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships before taking a bronze at the elite level at the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Milan a year later and has all the attributes necessary to make a big impact. However the 22-year-old orthodox fighter will have to manage the threat posed by AIBA World Champion Oleksandr Usyk from Ukraine, Italian superstar and Beijing silver medallist Clemente Russo, the rising star from Azerbaijan Teymur Mammadov and the powerful Bulgarian Tervel Pulev, if he is to claim Heavyweight (91kg) gold at the Olympic Games.
Having a triple Olympic Champion as your uncle could be a burden for most but Erislandy Savon seems to be taking it all in his stride. The classy Super Heavyweight (+91kg) has had some impressive victories in various international tournaments in recent months and looks in great form coming into the London 2012 Olympic Games. The powerful nephew of Cuban legend Félix Savon was stopped by eventual winner Magomedrasul Medzhidov of Azerbaijan at the quarter-finals stages of the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011 but now a year later, the 22-year-old will be ready to stake his claim to the biggest prize of all and bring back the Olympic gold into the family.
With so much talent and skill in one squad, many expect the Cubans to top the team ranking this year. Boxing has always been at the forefront of the sporting landscape in the country and nothing less than a handful of medals, including golds, will do for this gifted group. It promises to be explosive whenever these guys take to the ring at the ExCeL London during the Olympic Games.
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