Roniel Iglesias added his name to Cuba’s Olympic boxing hall of fame after winning a second gold medal on Tuesday, as women fighters voiced their determination to get more girls into the sport.
The 32-year-old Iglesias put on a masterclass to defeat British hope Pat McCormack on unanimous points and claim the welterweight title in style in Tokyo.
Iglesias has now won three Olympic medals, adding Tokyo gold to his London 2012 light-welterweight gold and bronze at Beijing 2008.
In doing so he joins a star cast of Cuban boxers to seal a hat-trick of Olympic boxing medals. They also include Felix Savon (three gold), Teofilo Stevenson (three gold) and Lazaro Alvarez (three bronze).
Iglesias, who failed to win a medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics, said he does not plan to stop there and is already eyeing the Paris 2024 Games.
He said that, following injury and his disappointment in Rio, some people in Cuba had written him off.
“There are always fans who have their opinions and it is true that many people thought that Roniel would not make it in these Games,” he said.
“Many people said that this was the end of the line for me.
“But only us boxers know what is happening, we know the injuries that we suffer and what we have to overcome.
“I always knew that I had it in me. Now those doubters have been proven wrong and those who believed in me were right.”
The knockers spurred on him, said Iglesias.
“That was an extra push for me to get up every morning and give that extra bit of effort,” he added.
Women medallists come out fighting
In the women’s competition, Sena Irie became the first Japanese woman to win Olympic boxing gold with a unanimous points victory over Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines.
Women’s boxing entered the Olympics for the first time at London 2012, when there were only three weight categories, but there are five in Tokyo and women’s boxing is more popular than ever.
But women boxers say more needs to be done.
Underlining the challenge that women’s boxing still faces for recognition in some countries and the stereotypes that endure, Irie said that some people have the impression that women fighters “are violent or scary or aggressive”.
“That’s not the case,” said the 20-year-old home fighter after winning the featherweight title, the first boxing gold of the pandemic-delayed Games.
“I want to wipe out those aggressive images of boxers.”
That defiant message was echoed by Irma Testa, the bronze medallist from Italy.
“I can only say that I am really proud,” said the 23-year-old, who had also made a small piece of boxing history for her country.
“For me it was really important to win a medal in order to make women’s boxing in Italy more popular.
“So it’s the first medal ever for women’s boxing (in Italy), and with this medal I can show young girls in Italy that boxing is also a sport for women, not just men.”