Enmanuel Reyes defected from Cuba year ago, over frustration of never being able to represent his nation on the highest amateur stage.
Once he arrived at that place, it was his old country who in fact stood in his way of an Olympic medal.
Julio La Cruz has now medaled in his second weight division, building on his 2016 Olympic Gold medal win at light heavyweight in Rio with a points win over Reyes in their heavyweight quarterfinal bout Friday evening at Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.
Reyes managed a 29-28 nod on one card, overruled by scores of 30-27, 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28 for La Cruz, who is now the fourth member of Cuba's team to advance to the semifinals.
La Cruz timed Reyes coming in throughout the opening round, mindful of his former countryman's heavy hands. Reyes—a Cuban defector who is now a naturalized citizen of Spain—stormed into the quarterfinals with a highlight reel third-round knockout of 2016 Olympic Silver medalist Vasiliy Levit (Kazakhstan) in the talk of the Olympics.
That moment could not be replicated on Friday, as La Cruz was far too disciplined to get hit with anything that clean. Reyes did have his say in round two, landing several right hands including one that appeared to drop La Cruz only for the sequence to be ruled a split.
Overall, it was enough to leave the fight even on three cards after two rounds, with it anyone's fight heading into the final round.
La Cruz managed to win those small moments that added up in the eyes of all five judges who had him sweeping round three. Reyes constantly came forward but was unable to land too many clean shots once inside. Conversely, La Cruz's ability to stick and move was just enough to secure a second guaranteed medal.
Cuba is now 9-0 in Tokyo, with four team members advancing to the semifinal round. La Cruz will face Abner Teixeira (Brazil), who was given all that he could handle before finally turning away a determined Hussein Eishaish (Jordan) in their quarterfinal slugfest. Teixeira won by scores of 30-27, 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28, with Eishaish taking a 29-28 card.
Muslim Gadzhimagomedov (ROC) becomes the second fighter from his independently-represented team to advance to the medal round, following a decision win over Ammar Riad Abdul Jabbar (Germany). Gadzhimagomedov—the number-one seed at heavyweight—won by scores of 30-26, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Abduljabbar was willing, coming forward even to the point of swarming through a sea of jabs to get to his target. Gadzhimagomedov made him pay nearly every time, though still chose to box from a distance out of respect for Abduljabbar's power.
The jab alone was enough to get the job done for Gadzhimagomedov, who prevailed by scores of 30-27 on three cards, 30-26 and 29-28 to move on to the medal round. His win runs the ROC Athletes' record to 11-3 overall, with the men's team a perfect 10-0.
Gadzhimagomedov will next face New Zealand's David Nyika, who had little difficulty in getting past Belarus' Uladzislau Smiahlikau.
Nyika—the number-four seed at heavyweight—won by unanimous decision in a fight that saw Smiahlikau contend with a cut over his right eye for more than two rounds. The entire bout was spent by Smiahlikau trying to get past Nyika's long jab, which set up right hand power shots that occasionally found their target.
A clash of heads left Smiahlikau with a cut just outside his right eyebrow with roughly 0:30 to go in the opening round. The wound wasn't severe enough to threaten a stoppage, although the Belarusian was clearly out of sorts.
Nyika—who is 1-0 as a pro—continued to pick his spots, shooting his jab and attempted to establish his overhand right. Smiahlikau neutralized the tactic by constantly smothering the New Zealander, though merely allowing him to hear the final better while not making any impact on the scorecards.
Gadzhimagomedov and Nyika will meet August 3 in the first of two semifinal bouts. The winner advances to the Gold medal round.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox