Julio la Cruz of Cuba has gone back-to-back with gold medals at the Olympics, winning men’s heavyweight (201 lbs) gold today with a dominant showing against the Russian Olympic Committee’s Muslim Gadzhimagomedov.
la Cruz, who also won at Rio 2016 as a light heavyweight, saved his best for last in Tokyo. As good as he was in prior rounds, he was even better here, a stellar, nearly flawless performance against the 2019 Worlds gold medalist, who had himself been excellent in Tokyo. Nothing Gadzhimagomedov tried worked here, and he absolutely tried everything he could. la Cruz was just beyond great in this one, probably the best overall performance we’ve seen in the entire competition.
The 31-year-old Cuban has to be considered a serious contender for the men’s Val Barker Trophy, given to the overall most outstanding boxer in the Olympics, and he may be tough to top after this kind of outclassing of a top opponent in a gold medal bout.
In his journey to gold, la Cruz defeated Elly Ochola of Kenya, Spain’s Enmanuel Reyes Pla (an ex-Cuban), and Brazil’s Abner Teixeira. It’s the third gold medal claimed for the Cuban team in Tokyo, following welterweight Roniel Iglesias and light heavyweight Arlen Lopez, who like la Cruz are also now two-time Olympic gold medalists, all of them doing so in two different weight classes.
Gadzhimagomedov defeated Algerian veteran Abdelhafib Benchabla, Germany’s Ammar Riad Abduljabbar, and New Zealand’s David Nyika to make his way to a silver medal in the end.