Montreal Olympic boxing champion, Cuban Jorge Hernandez died December 12 in Havana. He was 65.
For more than two weeks Hernandez had been hospitalized in the Cuban capital for a cardiorespiratory arrest from which he could not recover.
Hernandez, a native of Havana, won his 1976 crown in the 48 kg division. His was one of the three gold medals of Cuba in a disputed Olympic tournament won by the United States with five titles. The U.S. team may have been one of the best ever fielded for the Olympics, including Leo Randolph, Ray Leonard, Howard Davies and brothers Michael and Leon Spinks.
Two years before Montreal Hernández won the World Championship organized by AIBA in Havana in 1974.
The Cuban champion also won gold at the Pan American Games in Mexico City in 1975.
After his retirement he went on to coach the national selection directed by Alcides Sagarra between 1991 and 2013.
Keyshawn Davis of the United States stunned Armenia's two-time European champion Hovhannes Bachkov to reach the light welterweight gold-medal bout here at the International Boxing Association (AIBA) Men's World Championships.
Seventh seed Davis overcame third seed Bachkov 4-1, consigning his opponent to a second consecutive world bronze medal.
The American, who finished second at last month's Pan American Games, will now face the division's top seed and defending champion, Andy Cruz of Cuba.
Cruz had dominated his semi-final bout, defeating India's Manish Kaushik unanimously.
A second upset came in the middleweight division, with Eumir Marcial of the Philippines recording a unanimous victory over Tursynbay Kulakhmet of Kazakhstan.
Kulakhmet was seeded third in the tournament, having topped the podium at April's Asian Championships in Bangkok.
Home favourite Gleb Bakshi is standing in the way of a gold medal for Marcial.
The Russian delighted the crowd after getting past Hebert Conceicao Sousa of Brazil 4-1.
Bakshi's team mate, Muslim Gadzhimagomedov, will also feature in the finals tomorrow.
The European heavyweight champion earned a unanimous win against Radoslav Pantaleev of Bulgaria, setting up a battle with Ecuador's Julio Castillo.
It had been a close contest in Castillo's semi-final bout against Kazakhstan's Vassiliy Levit, the Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist and three-time Asian champion.
Castillo was awarded a 3-2 victory, with the crowd showing their displeasure at the result.
The session had begun with the flyweight semi-finals, with reigning Olympic champion Shakhobdin Zoirov securing a comfortable 5-0 win against Billal Bennama of France.
He will face Asian champion Amit Panghal in the gold-medal bout after the Indian narrowly beat Saken Bibossinov of Kazakhstan 3-2.
The finals in all eight weight divisions are scheduled for tomorrow.
Asian featherweight champion Tsendbaatar Erdenebat of Mongolia defeated European gold medallist Kurt Walker of Ireland here at the International Boxing Association (AIBA) World Championships.
In the battle of the best featherweights of Asia and Europe, Tsendbaatar came out the unanimous winner.
He will now face Mirazizbek Mirzkhalilov of Uzbekistan, who overcame the defending champion, Kairat Yeraliyev of Kazakhstan.
Yeraliyev was under-par throughout the fight, with the referee stopping the contest and handing Mirzkhalilov the victory.
Lazaro Álvarez of Cuba, the division's top seed, will feature in the other featherweight semi-final.
The three-time world and Pan American Games champion got past Russia's Albert Batyrgaziev 4-1 to silence the partisan crowd.
Álvarez will fight Commonwealth champion Peter McGrail of England, who unanimously defeated Kavinder Singh Bisht of India.
But Roniel Iglesias was unable to emulate the performance of his fellow Cuban in the welterweight division.
The top seed crashed out to Russia's Andrei Zamkovoi 4-1.
Kazakhstan's Ablaikhan Zhussupov recorded a unanimous win against Germany's Nick Bier to set up a clash with the home favourite.
Asian Games gold medallist Bobo-Usmon Baturov of Uzbekistan dominated against Zeyad Eashash of Jordan 5-0, while England's European and Commonwealth champion Pat McCormack edged past Sewonrets Okazawa of Japan 3-2.
Baturov and McCormack will battle it out for a place in the final.
The Cuban boxing armada started off the World Boxing Championship, in Ekaterinburg, Russia, at a good pace. Yosbany Veitía, Arlen López and Andy Cruz sealed their first victories against inferior rivals.
Veitía, in the 52 kilograms, opened the triumphant path for the Island, although he had a tougher time than expected against Algerian Mohamed Flissi, double world medalist in Almaty 2013 (silver) and Doha 2015 (bronze).
The boxer from Sancti Spíritus was not as fiery as usual, he had a hard time warming up and, although he won with a tight 3-2, he expressed his dissatisfaction in statements offered to the JIT digital site.
“I didn’t feel well in this first fight, I was out of distance and didn’t throw enough punches. Maybe the days of inactivity affected me. The important thing is that I won and we will see what happens next,” said Veitía, world champion two years ago in Hamburg.
More comfortable were the smiles of Arlen López (75) and Andy Cruz (63), who took the unanimous vote of the judges against Algerian Younes Nemouchi and Belgian Ibrahima Diallo, respectively.
According to colleague Roberto Ramírez’s reports, Arlen relied on his work with his right hand and struck at close range with effective hooks, a task that allowed him to take advantage and move to the next step.
“It was a good fight. I was able to fulfill the plan drawn up by the coaches during the three rounds. It’s a good experience to start recovering things that I’m still missing,” said the boxer from Guantánamo, who will be fighting in the next bout against Dominican left-hander Euri Cedeño, his victim in the quarterfinals of the last Pan American Games in Lima.
The icing on the cake for Cuba was given by Andy Cruz, probably today’s best fighter in the Antillean squad. The boxer from Matanzas gave no room for doubt in front of the Belgian Diallo, who could hardly cope with the varied and powerful arsenal of the Cuban.
“He is a pretty spiky rival. I dedicated myself in the first assault to study him to see what I could do. I worked hard on my defense, on my speed, and I realized that I could achieve it; then I went out to challenge him,” said Cruz, who hopes to win his coming commitments.
“You have to think fight by fight, not focus on just one rival, because they are all tough, and adapt to the characteristics of each opponent,” added Cruz.
Cuba will continue its pace in the World Championship this Sunday, when three other world champs will climb into the ring: Lázaro Álvarez (57), Erislandy Savón (91) and Julio César La Cruz (81).
Álvarez will clash against Ecuadorian Jean Caicedo, Savón with Georgian Nikoloz Begadze and La Cruz will close Cuba’s day against Algerian Mohamed Houmri.
After these three fights, only Roniel Iglesias, scheduled to go to the ring on Monday against the Chinese Qiong Mai, would remain to debut.
Cuba has seven boxers in the World Championship, after super-heavyweight José Ángel Larduet left the Caribbean team in Germany, where they had a small training base before traveling to Yekaterinburg.
Boxers are currently congregating here in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, located just over 1,000 miles east of Moscow, for an ultimate showdown.
They will battle it out over eight weight categories for the next two weeks, fighting for the honour of being named the best male boxer in the world. Such an achievement which would be a career-high for many.
As the athletes warm up to compete, the 12-day event will almost come as a relief to the International Boxing Association (AIBA). The governing body seem permanently stuck in a state of crisis, creating headline after headline with little sign of respite.
AIBA still lack a permanent leader after the controversial Gafur Rakhimov formally resigned last month. To add to the confusion, Morocco’s Mohamed Moustahsane confirmed he will remain as Interim President until March, having withdrawn his initial resignation last week.
The crisis has of course impacted on the World Championships, with Rakhimov’s resignation coming just a month after the International Olympic Committee suspended recognition of AIBA, stripping the organisation of its involvement in the boxing competition at Tokyo 2020.
The World Championships will subsequently no longer offer places at the Olympic Games as it has done so in the past. A series of qualifying tournaments have been organised for next year instead.
Despite this, boxers at the Yekaterningburg-Expo still have a world title to fight for and competition will be just as intense. With the spotlight finally on the sport itself, the World Championships may give AIBA an opportunity to put its current political soap opera on pause.
A record number of athletes are set to compete, with just under 500 athletes from 89 countries registered for the event. Most boxers will be returning to defend their title, while Olympic champions are also expected to feature.
Boasting both accolades and captaining the Cuban delegation is 30-year-old Julio César La Cruz Peraza, who has dominated the 81-kilogram category since the 2011 World Championships in Baku. Despite already earning four world titles and an Olympic gold at Rio 2016, La Cruz has shown no sign of letting up, claiming his third Pan American Games crown in Lima last month.
As always in boxing, the Cuban team is strong. La Cruz is joined in Yekaterinburg by three compatriots also looking to retain their titles: Yosvany Veitía will compete in the 52kg, with Andy Cruz Gómez back in the 64kg and Erislandy Savón battling in the 91kg.
The delegation will be hoping to replicate Cuba's success in 2017, when the country topped the medal table with five gold medals and two silver.
Uzbekistan finished second at that competition with one gold, three silvers and two bronze, although a number of these medallists, including a number of Rio 2016 Olympic champions, have since become professional.
However, Uzbekistan's reigning 49kg Olympic champion, Hasanboy Dusmatov, may have the chance to upgrade from the silver medal he received at the 2017 World Championships in Hamburg. Cuba’s Joahnys Argilagos, the gold medallist on that day, has since defected from his country and turned professional.
The 75kg category is also expected to go undefended after the Boxing Federation of Ukraine announced last month that they would not send an official delegation to Yekaterinburg. Subsequently, Oleksandr Khyzhniak will give up his place on top of the podium in the event.
Nine boxers will represent the host nation, although Russia have lost their 91kg Olympic champion, Evgeny Tishchenko, to a professional career. Their hopes may instead lie with Muslim Gadzhimagomedov, recent gold medallist in the same weight category at the European Games in Minsk.
Indeed, organisers will hope for Russian success to crown a maiden visit from the World Championships to the country. The competition has only previously been held in the Soviet Union, taking place in Moscow in 1989.
Yekaterinburg itself makes for an intriguing location, having replaced Sochi as the host city in January. The history graduate in me was intrigued to discover that the city is home to the golden-domed Church on the Blood, execution site of Russia’s ill-fated royal family, the Romanovs.
Alongside playing a significant role in Russian history, however, the city is also on its way to creating a strong sporting identity.
After the World Boxing Championships, Yekaterinburg will first welcome a number of teams for the International Volleyball Federation Men’s World Championship in 2022, before hosting the 2023 Summer Universiade. Surely these events will be used as a springboard for what seems to be a vibrant and modern city.
Despite the ensuing political drama in the background, the AIBA World Boxing Championships have been set up to be an exciting affair in a dynamic location, complete with defending champions and emerging talent alike.
Athletes may have some task ensuring that the action in the ring is as sensational as what is taking place outside of it, but the competition has the potential of taking some of the pressure off boxing's embattled governing body.
Members will have their fingers crossed that events in Yekaterinburg go swimmingly, with the governing desperate for a positive headline for once.
Five men’s and two women’s gold medal matches are on the schedule for Thursday evening. All five of the men’s matches feature a Cuban. Success in the ring this evening and again tomorrow, when four more boxers are battling in men’s finals, will boost the country’s medal tally significantly.
Cuba currently sits 7th on the medals table, with five gold medals and a total of 22. The host country Peru is in 8th, with four gold medals among its total of 11. The United States leads with 78 total medals, 33 of them gold. Mexico is a distant runner-up with 49, including 14 gold.
Four other sports will also be handing out medals on Thursday.
Track cycling has finals in men’s and women’s team sprint as well as the omnium men points race.
In diving, it’s the finals of the women’s 3m synchronized springboard and the men’s 1m springboard.
Shooting awards medals in two events: women’s 10m air rifle and men’s 25m rapid fire pistol.
Finally, it’s the bronze medal and gold medal games in men’s softball. The United States and Mexico began play at 10am in Lima. The loser of this game takes the bronze medal, with the winner moving on to face Argentina in the gold medal game in the afternoon.
There was no daily press briefing on Thursday with Lima 2019 spokesman Carlos Manuel Lazarte. He has spent much of his time the past few days answering questions about problems with the transportation system for the Games, especially for the media.
On Wednesday, he announced that some changes had been made and promised an improvement in the system.
Cuba's ten-strong boxing team aspires to dominate the sports program at the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru, from July 26 to August 11, Jit magazine reported on Sunday.
'We come to Lima for all gold medals,' the team's head coach, Rolando Acebal, told reporters during a training session in the Peruvian capital.
'We always talk about seven titles, because the analyses take into account the outlook in certain divisions, assessing the rivals and the reduced practice of our representatives, but today I do not exagerate when I take for granted that everyone is fit to win,' the trainer pointed out a few days before the inauguration of the continental games.
Acebal explained that 'when we talk about fighting for all titles we summarize the willingness of the boys, who are aware that this has been the main goal throughout the training' of a group with a high technical-tactical level.
The coach highlighted 'their huge commitment to success' and assured that once again 'the country's leadership can trust us'.
The Cuban delegation is made up of Yosbany Veitia, Lazaro Alvarez, Andy Cruz, Roniel Iglesias, Arlen Lopez, Erislandy Savon, Damian Arce, Osvel Caballero and Dainier Pero.