Cuba’s Julio la Cruz was shot in an armed robbery in 2014, but now he is a two-time Olympic champion after victory in the heavyweight boxing final in Tokyo yesterday.
Luckily, La Cruz was not seriously hurt when he was held up in Cuba and shot in the hip — he went on to win the Olympic light heavyweight gold medal two years later in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Now 31, he put the trauma farther behind him by adding Tokyo Olympic gold when he defeated Russia’s Muslim Gadzhimagomedov in a unanimous points decision, but he said that it had taken some time to recover from the attack.
“What happened was tough, but I never lost hope and had to heal for some time,” said La Cruz, a four-time world champion at light heavyweight. “The Cuban doctors did a marvelous job and thanks to my hope, my faith, my family, the Cuban people and psychologists that supported me, I’m here today. I was able to get these two titles and I think I deserve it.”
So where is that bullet which could have wrecked his career and even taken his life?
“My mother has it as a token of remembrance of what happened,” he said.
The elusive and wily La Cruz, who is nicknamed “the Shadow,” collapsed flat on his back in the ring when his victory against Gadzhimagomedov was announced.
However, La Cruz is refusing to settle with double Olympic gold.
“Paris is only three years away. I’ll go to the next Olympics and try to win a third gold medal for my country,” the proud Cuban said.
In the men’s lightweight semi-finals, there was disappointment for Australia’s Harry Garside, a certified plumber who also enjoys ballet and sported painted fingernails after his bout in the quarter-finals.
The 24-year-old lost on unanimous points to Cuba’s impressive Andy Cruz, but Garside still takes home bronze — Australia’s first Olympic boxing medal in 33 years.
Cruz goes up against Keyshawn Davis, 22, with the talented American one win away from securing a first men’s Olympic boxing gold for the US since Andre Ward in 2004.
Davis beat Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov on points in a rough-and-tumble encounter that saw both fighters twice end up wrestling one another to the canvas.
“I was anxious all day to fight this guy because all tournament he was walking around with his chest all big, thinking he’s scary and the biggest, baddest fighter,” Davis said. “I always like to fight the bullies — I beat the bully today.”
In the women’s middleweight division, Britain’s Lauren Price — who is also a soccer player who has represented Wales — narrowly defeated Dutch boxer Nouchka Fontijn on split points and faces China’s Li Qian for gold.
With two more days of boxing left in Tokyo, Cuba have won three golds, Russia one and Japan one.
Eight more titles remain to be decided.
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