Rio 2016: Cubans confident of their boxers’ fists

Havana, July 24 (IANS) Cubans have confidence in the power of their boxers’ fists and the country hopes to finish in the top 20 in the medals table at the upcoming Rio Olympic Games.

Boxing has been the “flagship sport” of the Caribbean country and its hopes were high for the boxers to bring home some gold medals, reports Xinhua news agency.

“Our men are well prepared and they are in excellent competition condition. We will compete in Rio with the aim of winning six medals: three gold, one silver and two bronze,” said Cuba boxing coach Rolando Acebal on Saturday in Havana.

Acebal said the team carried out training sessions this month in Argentina.

“They well fulfilled the planned parametres but there are still some details and we will work on this now in another session in Rio, where we will face Azerbaijan, the United States, Puerto Rico and the hosts,” said Acebal.

At the Games, which will begin on August 5, London 2012 Games winners Robeisy Ramirez and Roniel Iglesias will look to defend their 56kg and 69kg titles respectively while the Cuban team makes its appearance in 10 men’s divisions.

Three-time world champions Lazaro Alvarez (60kg) and Julio Cesar La Cruz (81) also stand out. Arlen Lopez (75), world champion since last year, will also be the one to watch.

The youth world champion Johannys Argilagos (49), two-time world runner-up Yasniel Toledo (64), Yosbany Veitia (49) and Erislandy Savon (91) also feature in the Olympic team.

The weakest point of the team will be in the superweight division where Leinier Perot will have a difficult road ahead towards the podium.

This time in Rio, the boxers will face new challenges as they will fight without headgear for the first time in 32 years at the Olympics.

These Olympic-style boxers will also meet with professional fighters after the International Boxing Association (AIBA) in June allowed professional boxers into the Games.

As a result, Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng, former International Boxing Federation (IBF) Flyweight champion, will participate in the three-round competition along with Cameroon’s Hassan N’Dam, former World Boxing Organisation (WBO) Middleweight champion.

Fortunately, Cuban boxers are not total strangers to professional boxing. In this Olympic cycle which runs from 2012 to 2016, Cuban boxers have had their first contact with semi-professional boxing with their debut in the World Series Boxing (WSB) in 2014, a competition for teams with five rounds and without helmets.

They went home with the WSB title in 2014 and finished runners-up the following year. They regained the title this year.

Also, with the four titles they won at the 2015 World Boxing Championship in Doha, Qatar, expectations on the boxers have been on the rise among fans and media.

They did not just hope the boxers bring back five to seven titles. They also want to see the whole delegation to finish in top 15 at the medals tally.

Since Mexico 1968 until London 2012, Cuba has won 33 gold medals, 19 silver and 14 bronze ones in boxing.

Cuba reached the highest spot in the Olympic medals tally when they finished fourth in Moscow 1980.

In Beijing 2008, the team recorded the worst result, dropping to 28th overall. four years later, in London, they managed to pull it back by finishing in 15th place with 14 medals: five gold, three silver and six bronze.



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