What To Know About Two-Time Gold Medalist Arlen Lopez
At 28-years-old, Arlen López becomes a historic Cuban gold medalist in 2020, as with his win over Great Brittan’s Benjamin Whittaker, Lopez now has won gold in the middleweight division in Rio 2016 and a gold at light heavyweight this year at Tokyo 2020.
His amateur career has seen him beat nearly anyone fighting around his weight class in his era, and ironically his fellow Cuban 2020 two-time Olympic gold medalist, Roniel Iglesias, had three wins over him eleven years ago in 2010. In 2016 Lopez defeated Bektemir “Bek The Bully” Melikuziev in the finals of Rio 2016 to win gold, a fun little factoid, that pro boxing fans might enjoy.
Lopez is special because he has the talent to box as most Cuban do, but against Benjamin Whittaker, a taller, faster fighter, Lopez knew he had to go forward which is an elite trait not always seen in amateur boxers, let alone in Cuban fighters who are often great at keeping distance but fighting inside.
Lopez’s path to the 2020 gold medal was not easy but started off smooth with a bye to the round of sixteen followed by a dominant win over Mohammed Houmri (ALG), which saw Lopez look unstoppable.
In the quarterfinals, Lopez defeated Rogelio Romero (MEX), a southpaw, who has all the makings of being a good pro, as Lopez was vastly too experienced for size alone to beat him. As Lopez picked his spots, and fought like an experienced pro, boxing on the inside and outside.
In the bronze medal round/semi-finals Lopez fought Loren Alfonso (AZE), as Alfonso is a former Cuban who defected to Azerbaijan to better help his family, we were told via the international telecast. Alfonso who is also an amazing backfoot distance boxer, couldn’t handle Lopez when he shifted gears and brought the pressure to him, as Lopez’s dimensions were just too much.
The finals saw Lopez fight Benjamin Whittaker who is a unique character birthed from the social media era, as he did an elaborate walkout, and dance prior to this bout, and fights at a fast pace with a lot of range. Lopez took a page from fellow Olympic light-heavyweight gold medalist Andre Ward’s book, and pushed forward smartly, landing big shots. Those who revisit this fight will always find it frustrating that Whittaker should have at least won three of the judges’ cards in the second round, which he didn’t, as this all, but assured Benjamin Whittaker would win silver, not gold, as he isn’t a big puncher.
Some interesting facts about Lopez are, Lopez doesn’t define his stance as he believes he is effective in both southpaw and regular and doesn’t have a dominant stance though he started orthodox. Per Olympics.com, at the age of thirteen, Lopez realized that he could punch with both hands, and the coach on the team allowed him to continue working on both.
Lopez will be known as one of the historic Cubans to have ever won a gold medal, and now the big question is do we see him in three years at the next Olympics, or does he inevitably take his talents to the pro game.