Julio La Cruz adds his name to the rich history enjoyed by Cuba at the Olympic level, particularly in the heavyweight division.
A masterclass boxing performance was offered by La Cruz in his Tokyo Olympics heavyweight final with Muslim Gadzhimagomedov of the Russian Athletic Committee (ROC), becoming a two-time Olympic Gold medalist following a decision win Friday afternoon at Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.
Gadzhimagomedov entered the Gold medal round at Tokyo having won his last 48 fights since his quarterfinal loss to Bektemir Melikuziev in the 2017 World Amateur Championships. The fight took place at light heavyweight, having since moved up and enjoyed international success at heavyweight.
Unfortunately, he ran into a fighter who followed the same pattern though to a much greater degree of success.
Both heavyweights outclassed their opposition, each winning three bouts and never having to sweat out a single decision.
Once the bell rang on Friday, it was La Cruz who served as the calm, cool and collected fighter. Gadzhimagomedov was unable to pin down the Cuban long enough to connect with his money punch, a straight right hand that has helped him cruise through the preliminary rounds of the Olympics.
La Cruz offered next-level defense, bending backwards in forcing Gadzhimagomedov to hit nothing but air when the action was at center ring. The closest he came to adversity was in round three, when the Cuban boxer took a tumble to the canvas. Gadzhimagomedov never stopped fighting for his boxing life in the heavyweight final, though his effort was rewarded on just two cards in the third round—by which point he didn't stand a chance of winning the fight.
Gadzhimagomedov takes home silver for ROC, coming up short in a bid to become the second straight boxer of Russian descent to win Gold at this weight class. Evgeny Tishchenko took top honors in 2016 Rio, though in a widely disputed decision win over Kazakhstan's Vasiliy Levit with the outcome causing a major shakeup with several officials banned from the rest of competition.
Tishchenko represented Russia, who as a nation was disallowed from being represented in the Tokyo Olympics as part of a two-year ban due to clerical-related anti-doping violations. Gadzhimagomedov was part of an eleven-member team known as the ROC, a loophole for athletes from the Russian Federation to compete without actually representing Russia.
The win by La Cruz advances Cuba to 19-3 in the Tokyo Olympics, with three Gold medals in tow and Andy Cruz looking to make it four in his lightweight final versus USA's Keyshawn Davis.
La Cruz is now the eighth Cuban heavyweight to capture Gold, and the first since Odlanier Solis in 2004 Athens.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox