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Cuba dominate Pan American Games

Pan American Games
Lazaro Alvarez performs for Cuba at Lima 2019 Action Images/REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
John Dennen reviews the Pan American Games as Oshae Jones stars for the USA

THE Pan American Games concluded at the Coliseo Miguel Grau in Lima, Peru on Friday (August 2).

The Cubans dominated the men’s event, with virtually an all star team winning eight gold medals, as well as a silver and a bronze to complete their haul.

Their squad was led by victorious Olympic and World champions. Light-heavyweight Julio La Cruz, almost a perennial World champion at this point as well as being the 2016 Olympic gold medallist, won gold in Lima. On Thursday (August 1) he unanimously outpointed Brazil’s Keno Machado in their final without dropping a round.

Julio La Cruz continues to excel Action Images/REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Arlen Lopez, the Olympic champion at middleweight, won Pan American gold on Friday. He unanimously outscored a Brazilian, Hebert Carvalho Da Conceic.

Another Cuban star, Erislandy Savon was triumphant at 91kgs, outpointing Ecuador’s Julio Castillo Torres. Roniel Iglesias was victorious all the way back at the London Olympics and remains a solid campaigner. Dominica’s Rohan Polanco Emiliano succumbed to his talents, losing a split decision to the Cuban welterweight.

Even Cuba’s super-heavyweight won gold. Dainier Pero Justiz beat Colombia’s Cristian Salcedo Codazzi on split decision.

“We are the best in the world,” Lazaro Alvarez told Reuters. The Cuban himself had won gold too in Lima, beating Dominica’s Leonel De Los Santos Nunez on a split decision.

“We are always ready to do our best. I feel a lot of pressure because you are always preparing to compete and you don’t know if can go wrong,” he continued. “There is a lot of tradition in Cuba, we have a lot of champions and the next generation want to become boxing champions.”

The only Cuban to lose a final was Yosbany Veitia, whom Dominica’s Rodrigo Marte De La Rosa beat on a split decision. While the only final that didn’t feature a Cuban saw Puerto Rican light-flyweight Oscar Collazo beat Colombia’s Yurberjen Martinez Rivas on a split decision, a significant win given that Martinez is a strong Olympic silver medallist.

The American men’s team won no gold medals, although Duke Ragan and Keyshawn Davis both reached finals. Each lost to Cuba’s representative in their division. At 56kgs Ragan had to settle for silver when a unanimous decision went to Osvel Caballero Garcia.

“I thought he was going to be more of a pressure fighter,” Ragan said. “But I had to come forward and be the pressure fighter, so I was getting caught with a lot of shots that I didn’t really see coming. I kind of got away from the game plan.”

Davis had to contend with the excellent Andy Cruz. Although one of the five judges did score for the American, all the rest favoured Cruz, who won his second Pan American gold medal. “I’m very disappointed,” Davis said. “Everybody expected me to get gold and I came up short. I’ll learn from it. I’ll go back to the drawing board and try it again.”

The star for the USA was Oshae Jones, who won 69kgs gold when she beat Canada’s Myriam DaSilva on a unanimous decision. “I just really made history. So much pain and sacrifices came with it but I swear it was worth it, the first woman to win welterweight Pan American games ever,” declared Jones.

Oshae Jones prevails for the USA Action Images/REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

In the quarter-final Jones had gained revenge over Panama’s Atheyna Bylon, who had beaten the American in the final of the qualification event. Oshae took a split decision in Lima to settle the score, a relatively significant win itself given that Bylon had previously managed to win the World championships in 2014.

Jones, from Toledo, is the sister of professional fighter Otha Jones. She intends to follow in the footsteps of Claressa Shields and win gold for the USA at the next Olympic Games. “I feel females before me did good things for women’s boxing,” Jones said. “They paved the way, but I’ll finish it off.”

She was America’s only champion in Lima but overall their team won 10 medals, the USA’s best result in a Pan American Games since 1983. As well as Ragan and Davis, Virginia Fuchs and Naomi Graham also won silver medals. They lost to Colombians on split decisions, with Ingrid Valencia beating Fuchs at 51kgs and Jessica Caicedo Sinisterra taking the win over Graham at middleweight.

“I know it was really close,” Fuchs said. “I definitely got the third and I feel like I got the second. I kind of felt like I won, but I know it was super close. Maybe it could have gone either way, but I felt like I pulled it off.”

Graham was disappointed with her result. “I definitely thought I did enough to win gold,” she said. “Apparently the judges saw it different. It’s a slight disappointment, but it still feels good to represent my country, and I’m still happy to bring home silver.”

Yarisel Ramirez at 57kgs, lightweight Rashida Ellis, welterweight Delante Johnson, middleweight Troy Isley and Richard Torrez at super-heavyweight all secured bronze medals for the USA. Isley did not get to renew hostilities with Cuba’s Arlen Lopez as he lost out to Brazil’s Hebert Carvalho in their semi-final. But given that Isley has just turned 21 he remains a prospect to watch, as does super-heavyweight Richard Torrez. The 20 year old has won the Strandja and Chemistry Cup tournaments in Europe, although in Lima he lost a split decision to Cuba’s Pero in their semi-final.

Mexico were less successful, propping up the lower end of the medal table with just three bronzes, courtesy of light-heavyweight Rogello Romero Torres, lightweight Esmeralda Falcon Reyes and welterweight Brianda Cruz Sandoval.

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