Photo: Yeilimar Viloria
Text: Juancho Arias & AMBC
Saturday night’s finals in Venezuela opened with a Pan American Games rematch in the 49kg class between skillful flyweight boxers Joselito Velazquez of Mexico, two-time Pan American champion, and Cuba’s Joahnys Argilados. Last month the Cuban had to settle for silver, but this time, after a relentless struggle in all three rounds, he snatched the gold medal by a score of 3-0 over Velazquez.
Argilados savored his triumph with a big smile and said his state of mind led him to the win.
"I'm happy because I wanted a rematch, and the world also wanted to see this fight. I knew I could win, "said the 18-year-old Cuban champion, who is considered part of his country’s boxing future.
The bronze medals went to Victor Santillan from the Dominican Republic and Nico Hernandez from the United States.
The audience at the Dome José María Vargas found this fight the perfect appetizer for a delicious night of championship amateur boxing. They danced and sang to the salsa and regetton spun by the DJ's between bouts as they cheered on their home fighters and the foreigners whom they had chosen as their own.
This festive continental party comprised approximately 2,000 spectators. Entrance throughout the tournament was free.
After the flyweights, the bantamweights took the ring. Andy Cruz of Cuba dispatched the Dominican Hector Garcia with a great boxing display. This bout was also a rematch of their 2015 Pan American Games meeting, but Cruz retained his undefeated status.
"Going to Rio de Janeiro is all I want," said the 20-year-old champion.
The bronze medal in this division went to gladiators Jose Diaz of Venezuela and Brazil’s Robenilson Viera.
The 60 kilogram class saw a close battle between the experienced Brazilian Robson Conceicao and Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba. The carioca came away with a unanimous 3-0 decision and celebrated his triumph with jumps in the ring.
"Now we're going to have a training camp before the Worlds in Germany and then try to get the quota for Rio," said the Brazilian champion.
The bronze medals at lightweight went to Luis Cabrera of Venezuela and Jose Rosario of Puerto Rico.
Cuba’s 64 kilogram champion Yasniel Toledo won by unanimous decision over Puerto Rican Danielito Zorrilla.
Toledo came into the tournament determined to shake off the setback at the Pan Am Games, when was defeated by hometown boxer Arhtur Biyarslanov.
"Now I want to be the world champion and get a quota place for Rio. That is what I most want," said Toledo, 25, who has moved up a weight class since his Olympic bronze medal in 2012.
The continental bronze medals at this weight went to the Venezuelan Luis Arcon and the Canadian Arthur Biyarslanov.
In the 75 kg division, Cuban Arlen Lopez had to dig deep to pull out a 3-0 win over AIBA’s Marlo Delgado, who kept moving forward despite suffering a cut in the mouth.
Lopez, who repeated his Pan Am dominance, praised his rival’s aggression.
"Here in Venezuela I met expectations and climbed in the AIBA ranking," said the 22-year-old. “But for the Worlds I must get better preparation so I can get my quota for the Olympic Games.”
The bronze middleweight medals went to Endri Saavedra of Venezuela and Misael Delgado of Mexico.
The light heavyweight division featured perhaps the smartest fight of the evening by the charismatic Venezuelan Albert Ramirez. Over three rounds, Ramirez displayed patience and strategy, neutralizing the offense of his opponent, reigning Pan American champion Julio Cesar la Cruz of Cuba.
This bout was a repeat of their 2015 final in Toronto, but this time the Cuban boxer had to settle for the silver medal.
"I'm very happy. This time I felt more secure and a real winner. Now it’s time to get the quota for the Olympics," said Ramirez, 23, who competes in the World Series of Boxing.
The 81kg bronze medals went to Argentina's Marcos Escudero and Juan Carrillo of Colombia.
Next to enter the ring was Cuban boxer Erislandy Savon, who has not coasted on the fame of his family name but instead contributed to its own. In him, the Savon legacy of ring intelligence and grace of movement has a newer, younger face.
Savon faced a boxer from the APB, Argentinian Yamil Peralta, and won all three rounds in decisive fashion, taking not only the gold medal but the award for best boxer of the tournament.
"Now the Worlds are coming and I’ll start to train very happy. The important thing is to be well prepared because then nobody will beat me," said the 25-year-old heavyweight.
Bronze medalists at 91 kilograms were Juan Goncalves of Brazil and Julio Castillo of AIBA.
The night continued, and nobody left the venue as there were still two Venezuelans on the card. One of them, perhaps the crowd favorite, was 52kg Joel Finol, who waged an unforgettable battle with Cuban Yosbany Veitia.
Finol, just 18 years old, had moved up in class from 49kg to 52kg for the championship and said he felt great. Meanwhile, Veitia, 23, was a veteran of the class, having won silver in Guadalajara 2011.
But Finol entered the ring lifted up by the love of the crowd and went to war with the Cuban, winning his beloved gold medal.
In the division of 52 kilos bronze medalists were Ceiber Avila of Colombia and David Jimenez from Costa Rica.
The reigning Olympic champion at welterweight, Cuban Roniel Iglesias, was among the last to take the ring. He was not facing, as predicted, a rematch with the Venezuelan Pan Am gold medalist Gabriel Maestre. The home country team captain suffered a loss in the semifinals, and instead Iglesias faced Argentinian Alberto Palmetta. Both fighters were veterans of the WSB.
Iglesias was, as always, precise in his punches and movements. Without slowing down, he defeated Palmetta and won gold.
The 69kg bronze medals went to Gabriel Maestre of Venezuela and Marvin Cabrera of Mexico.
In the super heavyweights, Lenier Pero from Cuba won 3-0 over Edgar Munoz of Venezuela, whom he had already defeated in the final of the Pan American Games.
"I knew him and was prepared to defeat him. Now I want to be world champion," said the 22-year-old Pero.
The bronze medals in the super heavyweight division went to Simon Kean of Canada and Edgar Ramirez of Mexico.
All continental medalists advance to the Worlds in Doha, Qatar in October, along with the boxers who fell in the quarterfinal round to the eventual champions