Cuban boxing on the rise
By Lemay Padrón Oliveros
Absences for different reasons, along with the accelerated rise of young people to the national team without being completely ready for that step, have caused a drop in Cuba’s boxing performance in recent years.
The failure by Cuba’s boxers to win any gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and the final outcome of just one title at the 2009 World Championships in Milan led to a restructuring of the boxing coaching team. Those changes began to bear fruit with the winning of a pair of titles at the 2011 Baku World Championships and at the 2012 London Olympics.
At first glance, the 2013 Almaty World Championships in Kazakhstan might seem very similar to the 2011 Baku event: Cuba took second place again, and the champions are the same as they were two years ago. However, in both cases, the gold medals won at Almaty had nuances of something more.
Lázaro Álvarez (60 kilograms) was making his debut in a competition at this level, and in a new weight division. His rise, as hoped for by coaches and experts, went practically unnoticed, and they were assessing his weight gain until the last minute.
Julio César La Cruz (81kg), for whom the 2012 London Olympics were a disappointment, made acomeback and demonstrated his mastery of this sport every time he climbed into the ring, just as he had done before and after the Olympics.
Yasniel Toledo (64 kg) once again finished a step away from a gold medal, but his performance showed that without any flamboyance, he continues to be a sure prize-winner, the type of fighter you don’t come across every day.
Arisnoidis Despaigne (69 kg) won every compliment possible. From a last-minute guest, he became the great revelation of the Cuban team, winning a silver medal that is worth much more for his record and above all for his confidence.
Lastly, Yosbany Veitía (49kg) finally returned from a world championship event with a medal. He could have done a little better, but his rival in the semifinals was also a top-notch fighter.
Meanwhile, Olympic champion Robeisis Ramírez was not up to snuff, even though he was competing in another weight division, because up until then he had been doing very well in the 56kg category, and he should have made it to the winners’ podium.
In the case of the remaining team members, while they and their coaches logically aspired to better results, their performances were average.
Gerardo Cervantes, Ramón Luis and YohandyToirac were competing at their first world championship event. In the case of Cervantes, he lost to one of the greats in his division. Ersilandy Savón’s performance was more or less what was expected: to box well, and if he lost, to do so with his boots strapped on. It is true that the goal was to recuperate the throne, and that was not achieved. While the Kazakh team may have had a little bit of help from the referee, their fighters were very well prepared for this event, and they returned to their longtime position of boxing powerhouse. The tendency in recent years has been to alternate at the top: Russia at the 2009 Milan event; Ukraine at Baku in 2011, and now Kazakhstan. However, Cuba is still in the running, and that demonstration of consistency cannot be minimized.
While Team Cuba did not reach its goal, all signs seem to indicate that the coaching team is heading down the right path, and victories are sure to grow in the future.
For the region in general, Latin Americans who boxed in Almaty gave their best world championship performance in the last 30 years, and that included a larger number of countries, because traditionally Cuba has been the only one to shine assiduously.
This time, the Latin Americans won 10 medals, including 2 golds, three silvers and five bronzes, and in addition to Cuba, which won 2-2-1, those on the winners’ podium included Brazil (0-1-1), Costa Rica (0-0-1), Argentina (0-0-1) and Venezuela (0-0-1).