Meet Julio La Cruz – The 2020 Men’s Olympic Heavyweight Gold Medalist
Cuba does it again, as it has its third Olympic gold medalist this year, but not just that – Roniel Iglesias, Julio La Cruz, and Arlen Lopez, all have two Olympic gold medals in two weight classes with La Cruz being the latest to join the club.
Look not to put anyone down, but the heavyweight division at this year’s Olympic Games, sums up why we don’t see cruiserweight bouts often on TV. We had two-or-three pro-ready fighters, and the rest being professional amateurs. It was a division for the purist, as most fighters looked to gain points from the outside, get a lead, and then avoid their opponent in the third round.
La Cruz proved to be the best at this, but still had two shaky outings as Emmanuel Reyes seemingly dropped him twice, with neither being called, and Muslim Gadzhimagomedov seemed to sit him down as well as it was called a slip. La Cruz’s defense is very flawed as he loves to fight with his hands low and rely on his speed and timing which is expectational, but as we saw with “The Big Steppa” Khalil Coe, who knocked him out in international competition, La Cruz seems to be what this division all about – professional amateurs, as I am not sure I see Cruz being an amazing pro with his flaws.
La Cruz’s path to victory was simple – a first-round blowout of Elly Ochola of Kenya, in which Ochola was outgunned in every which way.
His second-round bout against Emmanuel Reyes was far more interesting as Reyes seemingly dropped La Cruz twice, but the referee called them slips. Reyes is a pro-style fighter, and will land big hard shots, not volume, so with those not counting, La Cruz’s volume carried him through this bout, though at the very least.
In the sem-finlas, La Cruz fought Abner Teixeira of Brazil, and landed more volume, but I can’t tell you if he landed the better punches as Teixeira seemed to be landing good solid punches on the inside, but they didn’t seem to be rewarded. This bout though felt like La Cruz more than likely edged at least two-rounds, but wasn’t a landslide by any means.
In the finals, La Cruz beat the #1 seed Muslim Gadzhimagomedov, one of the hardest fighters to watch the Olympics, who has a style to accumulate points from distance and avoid his opponent in the final round. Though I believe Gadzhimagomedov dropped La Cruz in this bout and didn’t get credit for it, La Cruz exploit Gadzhimagomedov flaw, and win.
Fun facts, La Cruz’s nickname is “The Shadow”. In January 2014 he was shot in his left hip after someone attempted to rob him. De la Cruz was leaving a training center in his hometown of Camaguey, Cuba, along with his training partner boxer Leinier Pero the incident occurred. He was hospitalized after the shooting.
La Cruz wants to win gold at the 2024 Olympics, and became a 3x Olympic gold medalist. La Cruz said the move to heavyweight was a great benefit to him as he started doing strength training and the weight cut would’ve been hard.