Cuban Boxing’s Golden Aage Comes to a Halt

Beijing, Aug 25:
Cuba’s young boxers looked ahead to the next Olympics after their rollercoaster ride ground to a halt without a single gold medal on Sunday. Yankiel Leon and Carlos Banteaux missed out in the bantam and welterweight finals respectively to cap a miserable run in the last few days of competition as Cuba’s boxers were left without a gold for the first time since 1968.

Kazakhstan won one gold and a bronze to steal the thunder from the Cubans, while China picked up two golds. Kazakhstan’s Bakhyt Sarsekbayev won the welterweight boxing gold medal, upsetting Cuban favourite Carlos Banteaux 18-9.

Sarsekbayev had little international success before the Olympics, but he was quicker and more accurate than Banteaux on Sunday. Sarsekbayev controlled the bout to win Kazakhstan’s fifth gold.

Cuba, rocked by the defections of five leading fighters, managed to get eight of their 10 boxers into the semis and four into finals but finished with silver each time. “The boxing team is very young I’m happy with them. It’s true we haven’t won a gold medal but I’m not aware of any problems,” Leon said after his 15-5 loss to Mongolia’s Badar-Uugan Enkhbat.

On Saturday, Andris Laffita was easily beaten by Thailand’s Somjit Jongjohor while Emilio Correa narrowly lost the middleweight final to Briton James DeGale. Leon, 26, said set his sights on London 2012 after reaching the Olympic final at the first attempt.

“I will dedicate the next four years to training because I want to be ready to be an Olympic champion in 2012,” he said. “I’m really happy with the silver. I know that’s very important. But I was so close to the gold this time.  I know I’m almost there, so 2012 will be my year.”

In December 2006 triple heavyweight world champion Odlanier Solis and fellow reigning Olympic title-holders Yan Bartelemy and Yuriorkis Gamboa all went missing. Six months later double Olympic and twice World champion bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux and 2005 world champion welterweight Erislandy Lara both went on the run after the Pan-American Games in Venezuela. Fearing further defections, Cuba skipped last year’s world championships in Chicago. Havana’s communist regime does not allow its fighters to turn professional, giving them the edge in amateur competitions such as the Olympics.

Meanwhile, China’s Zhang Xiaoping won the Olympic boxing light-heavyweight gold medal when he outpointed Ireland’s Kenny Egan in the final on Sunday.  Zhang led on the scoreboard throughout the bout to win a 11-7 points decision and hand the hosts their second boxing title  after Zou Shiming’s light-flyweight triumph  earlier on Sunday.


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