“Historic” triumph at World Boxing Championships as a Jordanian beats a Cuban for the first time

A possible rematch between Emmanuel Reyes and Julio Cesar la Cruz could happen in Belgrade after Tokyo 2020 bout was marked by politics.

Roniel Iglesias lost in his debut due to a deep cut in his eyebrow.
Roniel Iglesias lost in his debut due to a deep cut in his eyebrow.

For the first time a Jordanian boxer defeats a Cuban and he is also a double Olympic champion.

The Jordanian press woke up this Thursday with the describing as “historic” the performance of its fighter Zeyad Eashash against Roniel Iglesias, champion of London 2012 and Tokyo 2020 after an unforeseen and premature outcome. The 71 kg fight opened the third day of the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Belgrade.

After the first minute of the first round, the Cuban suffered an injury in the right superciliary arch in a close-range exchange with his opponent. The referee called the doctor and determined the stoppage of the fight due to the depth of the cut on his face.

Eashash, the Asian Games bronze medalist, had started the fight with impetuosity and at the time of the stoppage had produced a better score from the judges which tipped the verdict in his favor to become the first big surprise of the tournament. Eashash had succumbed to Iglesias in the 2019 World Championship in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

The day was fateful for the Cubans who lost in a good fight to another Olympic medalist in the 60 kg, Lazaro Alvarez, clearly defeated by Japan’s Hayato Tsutsumi, 22, world junior champion in 2016.

Lázaro Alvarez, derrotado claramente por el japonés Hayato Tsutsumi, (AIBA)
Lázaro Alvarez, derrotado claramente por el japonés Hayato Tsutsumi, (AIBA)

Hayato, whose younger brother Reito is also a member of the Japanese national team, defined his victory with the best punches in the third round against Alvarez, three-time world champion and one of the favorites to climb the podium.

Iglesias and Alvarez were the first Olympic medalists eliminated from the total of eight of the 32 Olympic medalists in Tokyo.

Remaining in competition are Tokyo champions, Cubans Julio Cesar la Cruz and Andy Cruz, and bronze medalists Saken Bibossinov (Kazakhstan), Hovhannes Bachkov (Armenia), Lorenberto Alfonso (Azerbaijan) and Abner Teixeira (Brazil).

Alfonso, along with Emmanuel Reyes (Spain) and Javier Ibanez (Bulgaria), are three former members of the Cuban pre-selection team who applied to leave their country’s National Federation and headed to Europe in recent years to obtain their new nationality.

Belgrade could produce a Reyes’ rematch against Julio Cesar la Cruz after a famous confrontation in the Olympic ring in Tokyo marred by politics.

The verdict of that bout more than two months ago favored La Cruz 4-1 to which the Reyes disagreed.

But prior to the fight, in declarations to the Spanish press, Reyes had assured that if he won he would shout “Patria y Vida!”, in reference to the title of a song that has become the anthem of the demonstrations against the Cuban government inside and outside the island.

The one who shouted from the ring was La Cruz when, after learning of the decision in his favor, he exclaimed in the direction of a group of the Cuban delegation that came to support him: “No Fatherland and life! Fatherland or death, we will win!”, a slogan with which Fidel Castro usually concluded his speeches.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Boxing - Men's Heavyweight - Quarterfinal - Kokugikan Arena - Tokyo, Japan - July 30, 2021.   Julio Cesar La Cruz of Cuba and Enmanuel Reyes Pla of Spain in action. Pool via REUTERS/Buda Mendes
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Boxing - Men's Heavyweight - Quarterfinal - Kokugikan Arena - Tokyo, Japan - July 30, 2021. Julio Cesar La Cruz of Cuba and Enmanuel Reyes Pla of Spain in action. Pool via REUTERS/Buda Mendes

If they win all their bouts, both fighters would face each other in the 92 kg World Championship final scheduled for November 6.

Spain registered eight fighters in this event, a country that has not won a medal at the World Championships since the first version held in Havana in 1974 when Enrique Rodríguez Cal won bronze in 48 kg.

Cuba, the main medal winner at the World Championships, has six men in competition. Its officials had a full team to participate but at the last minute left in Havana four fighters with Covid-19 and the 75 kg Olympic champion, Arlén López, for not being in adequate physical shape, according to what they said.

The United States sent a team of nine prospects that up to the fourth date had achieved five victories with only one loss.

The Second World Cup was held in Belgrade in 1978. Forty-three years later, the Balkan city is organizing it again with the incentive, in addition to the medals, of cash prizes amounting to more than two million dollars, with $100,000 for gold, $50,000 for silver and $25,000 for bronze.

Another novelty has been the establishment of 13 categories. The project at the same time becomes a concern because it is different from the number of seven weights that the IOC has decided to set in Paris 2024 in the men’s sector while increasing to six divisions in women.

Quite a few boxing fans consider that these world championships usually have a higher level than the Olympic tournaments. A question of criteria. There have been some memorable Olympic Games, for example, the one held 45 years ago with the presence of the Americans Ray Sugar Leonard, Howard Davies, Leon and Michael Spinks and the Cuban Teófilo Stevenson as main figures.

However, in 2021, neither one nor the other event, as a consequence of the world pandemic and its effects on the preparation of athletes and the scheduling of competitions, seemed to have met the expectations of a high level.

For Tokyo 2020, for example, the Pre-Olympic of the Americas and the World Qualifier were suspended by the IOC Task Force for Boxing, due to the uncertainty of the health crisis, and the international ranking was resorted to as an undesired but emerging formula to complete the places.

For Belgrade, a greater presence of Olympic figures was expected. The closeness of the World Cup to the Olympic tournament has confirmed that many teams traveled with new faces in the beginning of a transition process. Other fighters may be injured or out of training, and others have signed on as professionals.

For AIBA, chastened by the IOC, as or more important than the technical level is that the holding of this 2021 World Cup sends a strong signal of its serious commitment to restoring the credibility of that body further damaged by the recent report of an independent team whose investigation points to alleged illegal and immoral manipulation of verdicts in more than 10 bouts at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.