THE Playa Giron, Cuba’s national championships, concluded in Camaguey on December 18. Some of the country’s most well known boxers were in action but at unexpected weights. Only in September the great Julio La Cruz [pictured] was boxing at his familiar light-heavyweight, the division where he captured the Olympic gold medal and his four World championships. But for this event he moved all the way up to 91kgs. He did so with aplomb, winning the final against Angel Napoles on a unanimous decision.

Another Olympic champion, Arlen Lopez moved up to 81kgs successfully, beating Raisel Poll in the final also on a unanimous decision. Yariel Areu won the 75kgs title, edging out Yoenlis Hernandez on a split decision.
The brilliant Andy Cruz, the reigning World gold medallist at 63kgs, confirmed his place as Cuba’s leader in the new division, unanimously outscoring Jorge Moirant in their final.

In the welterweight final Kevin Brown upset London 2012 gold medallist Roniel Iglesias, defeating him via split decision.

49: Billy Rodriguez outpd Alibel Poll split. 52: Yosbany Veitia outpd Damian Arce unan. 57: Osvel Caballero outpd Osvaldo Diaz unan. 60: Darielki Palmero outpd Rafael Joubert unan. 91&: Dainier Pero outpd Yoandy Toirac unan.

USA Boxing hold trials for their Tokyo 2020 team

OVER eight days in December the USA boxing held trials for their Olympic squad. The top two boxers in the trials advance to the next stage of the US’ selection procedure. That starts with their squad assembling in training camp at Colorado Springs in January. The process will include a multination training camp, before they go to Bulgaria for the Strandja Tournament.
The final three box-offs took place on December 16 at Lake Charles. At 57kgs Lupe Gutierrez took a split decision victory over Andrea Medina. Javier Martinez avenged a split decision loss to Joseph Hicks, returning the favour on a split too in their final 75kgs box off. At heavyweight Darius Fulghum unanimously outpointed Jamar Talley, who’d beaten him on a split decision the previous day. Fulghum had an impressive tournament, beginning with an upset victory over top seed Adrian Tillman.

The rest of the finals took place on December 15. At flyweight Virginia Fuchs secured a unanimous decision victory over Christina Cruz to take her second Olympic Trials title, a championship in which she won every bout unanimously.

In the men’s 52kgs division, Abraham Perez beat Anthony Herrera by unanimous decision victory. “I’m happy,” he said. “There were a lot of sacrifices that I made. I’m glad those sacrifices weren’t for nothing.”
Brooklyn’s Bruce Carrington didn’t lose throughout these Olympic trials, winning the men’s featherweight division. In the final he unanimously scored David Navarro, after starting off the tournament with an impressive split decision win over top seed Duke Ragan.

“Nobody worked harder than me,” Carrington said. “Nobody dealt with the things I had to go through. There were a lot of obstacles these last four years. No matter the seed, nobody had anything for me in this weight division.”

Rashida Ellis was the top female lightweight in the trials, winning all her contests by unanimous decision, including in the final against Amelia Moore. “I just had to push myself harder,” Ellis said. “I’ve fought most of these girls, I just had to pick it up a little more.”

A walkover brought Keyshawn Davis his lightweight title.

69kgs Pan American Games gold medallist Oshae Jones was a convincing unanimous victor over Briana Che in their final. “My confidence was already on ten,” Jones said. “I was excited, I had my family with me. I’m on cloud nine, I’m on cloud on hundred right now.”

In the men’s 69kgs division Delante Johnson fended off Freudis Rojas on a split decision to win their final. “My confidence is very high,” Johnson said. “I’ve trained hard for this and it finally paid off. I’ll be ready for our next tournament. I don’t think any achievement tops this. This is the biggest thing.”

At middleweight Naomi Graham unanimously outscored Morelle McCane. “It feels amazing to be at this point,” Graham said after the final. “I’m at a loss for words. I knew I could do it, I believe in myself. To actually do it is a whole other feeling.

Atif Olberton could not get the better of Rahim Gonzales, losing on a split in the 81kgs final. “I’m tired but I pushed through,” Gonzales said. “I’m just excited. Very honoured to have a chance with the U.S. Olympic team.”
A new super-heavyweight rose. Antonio Mireles secured his Trials title with a unanimous decision win over Jeremiah Milton. “He caught me off guard in the first round,” Mireles admitted. “He was more collected. I had to think more. I just tried to push the pace.”

Richard Torrez, the American super-heavyweight who was infamously knocked cold by Bakhodir Jalolov, an Uzbek who has also boxed professionally, did not feature in these Olympic trials due to a medical exemption but he will still have a stake in the selection process.

Army host round robin tournament at Combat Sport Centre

THE Army Boxing Team finished their busy year with the second edition of their round-robin invitational tournament held at the Combat Sports Centre in Aldershot. The event took place from December 13-15 and saw four teams; British Army, Southern Counties, London and the Belgium national team involved in competitive action across the three days.

The Belgians brought a full team, with two catching the eye in particular. Nabil Messaoudi moved up to 75kgs but never struggled with the naturally bigger opposition. The Army’s Pete Love did force him to work on the Friday, but he followed up with a slightly more straightforward win over Faith Ofolorun (Croydon) on the Saturday.

At 64kgs Diallo Ibrahima made the most of his long reach to handle Haringey’s Numan Hussein on the Saturday. Having had the opportunity to watch Diallo already, the hosts’ Harry Condren started brightly, using sharp counters to frustrate him. But the Belgian, aged just eighteen, showed his class; he adjusted and increased the work rate in the last two rounds to take the decision.

The Army had notable success with double wins for both Shamim Khan and Pete Love. Khan was his usual unorthodox self as he bamboozled the smaller Amin Amaziane, from the Belgium team, in his first bout. On the Sunday Francis Storey (Finchley) was game and gave Shamim plenty to think about but it was the 35-year-old Khan’s hand that was raised after three rounds.

Pete Love did brilliantly to bounce back from defeat to Masaoudi on day one to secure two wins at his new weight of 75kgs. He had too much for Belgian Romuald Collard on Saturday before taking on Faith Ofolorun, with both boxers in their third bout of the weekend. Love had to dig deep to get the win, turning his overall result for the weekend positive, with two wins and a loss.

At 91&kgs, surprise package Harvey Dykes (Moulscombe) has fast hands and can move well. He beat both Jamie Tshikeva (White Hart Lane) and Josh Woods (Army) impressively. Other notable boxers on display included current 86kgs Elite champion Kheron Gilpin (Miguel’s), who cruised to victory over Belgium’s Sasha Lelievre and Ziad El Mahor.

Sonny Parkinson (Hill Crest) boxed very neatly against Joe Lowery but unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to box again due to an injury to his next opponent.

56: Amin Ameziane (Belgium) outpd by Francis Storey (Finchley), Shamim Khan (Army) outpd Ameziane, Khan outpd Storey. 60: Yasine Arafa (Bel) outpd by Ross Driscoll (Finchley), Sydney Driscoll (Army) outpd Arafa. 64: Numan Hussein (Haringey) outpd by Diallo Ibrahima (Belgium), Harry Condren (Army) outpd by Ibrahima. 75: Nabil Messaoudi (Belgium) outpd Pete Love (Army), Romauld Collard (Belgium) outpd by Faith Ofolorun (Croydon), Joe Lowery (Army) outpd by Sonny Parkinson (Hill Crest), Messaoudi outpd Ofolorun, Love outpd Collard, Love outpd Ofolorun. 86: Sasha Lelievre (Belgium) outpd by Kheron Gilpin (Miguel’s), Luke McWhinnie (Southampton) outpd Lelievre, Gilpin outpd Ziad El Mohor (Belgium). 91&: Harvey Dykes (Moulscombe) outpd Jamie Tshikeva (White Hart Lane), Dykes outpd Josh Woods (Army).