GB welterweight Pat McCormack faces the ultimate test when he meets Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias in the final of the Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on Tuesday (August 3).
The Cuban has a remarkable track record of success. He rose to prominence as a bronze medallist at Beijing 2008 and was an excellent Olympic gold medallist at London 2012 (the best boxer of that tournament in this writer’s opinion, although he did not win the Val Barker trophy). But he did not medal at 2016 and in recent years he has been overshadowed as McCormack and Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy battled for control of the division.
But if Iglesias was being forgotten, he has served notice at this tournament that he is back and back to his best form in years. He had to turn momentum his way to win his opening contest against Japan’s Sewonrets Okazawa, eliminated American Delante Johnson, before toppling reigning World gold medallist Zamkovoy.
However these are all opponents that McCormack has either beaten already or in the case of Johnson would certainly be expected to beat. The Birtley boxer came into this competition as the top seed and confident in his ability. He steered his way past Belarus’ Aliaksandr Radzionau and Uzbekistan’s ferocious Bobo-Usmon Baturov, outboxing and outpointing both. He picked up a slight cut in his quarterfinal with Baturov but he should be able to manage that. He won his semi-final by walkover after Aidan Walsh strained his ankle. But that is not necessarily an advantage. While it has allowed his cut more time to heal, but it’s denied McCormack the chance to warm into the final. Pat certainly wanted the bout to happen and, given that he’s beaten Walsh three times before and handily in their last contest, he would have been very confident of another win.
“I think it doesn’t really matter [that McCormack didn’t get to box in a semi-final]. I don’t really care about it,” Iglesias said. “I never fought against him [before], so it will be the first time to fight him. That is interesting that it will be the final of the Olympics, so I will just try to win.
“It is my third medal which is very important but what I really want is to win the gold medal. It is a historic moment for me and for my country, Cuba. I am very happy at this achievement.”
There are further intangibles. Iglesias is about the only top welterweight McCormack hasn’t beaten before. Slick Cuban stylists have haunted his Olympic experience. Pat lost, narrowly, to Cuba’s excellent Yasnier Toledo Lopez at Rio 2016. Current Cuban number one at 63kgs, the brilliant Andy Cruz eliminated his twin brother Luke McCormack from this tournament. Victory for Pat would be the perfect kind of revenge.
But McCormack is the tournament’s top seed and the favourite, for good reason. “I don’t feel it as pressure. I think of it as confidence,” he said. “I’ve got the beating of them all.
“When I went to Rio, I’d just turned 21, I’d been to one major. Now I’ve got the experience behind us, I’ve beat World champions, I’ve beat Olympic medallists, so ready to go and take that medal home.”
McCormack could become the first gold medallist of Britain’s Tokyo 2020 dream team. This GB squad already has five confirmed medallists and has the chance to extend that further on Tuesday. Caroline Dubois and Galal Yafai are both boxing in quarterfinals earlier in the day where a win would guarantee them a medal.
“There’s great fighters on the team,” Pat said. “This is the best team I’ve ever been on and I think when it comes to Tokyo we’re going to get the most medals.”
GB lightweight Dubois boxes Thailand’s Sudaporn Seesondee at about 4.50am UK time. Flyweight Yafai boxes another Cuban, Yosbany Veitia at about 9.30am UK time. McCormack’s gold medal match with Iglesias is set for about 11.05am UK time.