SANTIAGO, Chile — Once a sports superpower, Cuba now celebrates every gold medal at the Pan American Games.
Two of them came on Friday with two-time Olympic boxing champions and kept the team from the Communist island in competition with its Caribbean rivals the Dominican Republic.
Heavyweight Julio César La Cruz beat Brazil’s Keno Machado 4-1 in the final and became the first ever athlete of the sport to win a fourth Pan American gold medal. The 34-year-old will be in Paris next year.
Shortly later, light-heavyweight Arlen López topped another Brazilian, Wanderley de Souza Pereira, 5-0.
Cuba, the Dominican Republic and host Chile are in a bitter fight for the 6th place in the medal table as the largest multisports event in the continent reaches the midpoint.
La Cruz, a national hero back home, said he doesn’t want to defend his title in four years’ time in Barranquilla, the Colombian city that will play host for the next Pan American Games.
“I am happy to fulfill my objective, the predictions and my task as a flagbearer for the Cuban team,” a serious La Cruz told journalists. “I don’t think I want to arrive at my fifth games. I want to retire now and spend time with my family. Being a boxer is a big sacrifice and time away from your family. I need some rest. Cuba has a substitute already, someone who does it for me.”
La Cruz said the Paris Olympics he will put “will and love” to win his third Olympic gold medal.
“You have to be disciplined because the tournament is not won in Paris, you win it from now onward,” the boxer said in the most expected of the 13 boxing finals on Friday.
Cuban featherweight boxer Saidel Horta lost 5-0 to American Jahmal Harvey earlier on Friday.
Dominican Yunior Alcántara reduced the deficit in the Caribbean bout with a gold medal that didn’t make him sweat in the final. Brazilian Michael Douglas Trindade had an arm injury that did not allow him to fight for the title of the flyweight category.
Cuba is the country with most medals for boxing in the history of the Pan American Games. But that position in Santiago was passed on to Brazil, with four gold medal winners.
Image credits: AP