Olympics: Cuba's La Cruz wins light-heavyweight boxing gold

La Cruz celebrates after winning his bout on Aug 18, 2016.
La Cruz celebrates after winning his bout on Aug 18, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Cuba’s three-time amateur world champion Julio Cesar La Cruz bamboozled Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov to win light-heavyweight Rio Olympic gold on Thursday (Aug 18).

It is Cuba’s first boxing title in Rio and came after La Cruz was rightly awarded the bout on unanimous points.

Britain’s Joshua Buatsi and Mathieu Bauderlique of France take home bronze.

Classy La Cruz, 27, had the crowd with him in the close-to-capacity 9,000-seat arena early on, but they were booing him by the end, feeling he did not attack enough.

The Kazakh was doing the pursuing with La Cruz – light on his feet and his long arms often dangling at his sides – content to dip in and out with the odd flick of a jab.

La Cruz was the smoother operator, Niyazymbetov the greater aggressor.

This was classic Cuban boxing – fast footwork and clever movement. The Kazakh was having trouble getting near him.

A few boos started to ring out when the crowd felt the duo needed to put on more of a show, especially the Cuban.

But that is not La Cruz’s style and jeers turned to a few cheers when Niyazymbetov, also 27, missed with two big shots – the Cuban arching his neck back and his head away to avoid a flailing blue glove.

The Kazakh instead hit the ropes and La Cruz was cruising to victory – offering his face to be hit and then darting out of the way again, all the while lashing out a rapid-fire jab to keep his foe at bay.