Andy Cruz (left) was undefeated in all his national and international competitions of 2017. Photo: Ariel Cecilio Lemus Álvarez de la Campa

Both 2016 and 2017 were good years for Cuban boxing, a sport which, with a broad program of events scheduled for this 2018, will probably see a repeat of the successes the island has been reaping since 2011.

Contrary to the belief that the first year of the Olympic cycle is usually the easiest, for Cuban boxing 2017 meant 12 months of tough challenges and strong competition in the Seventh World Series of Boxing, Pan American tournament, and World Championships.

The island’s Domadores de Cuba led by Rolando Acebal faced a difficult challenge during the most recent edition of the World Series of Boxing, coming up against several Rio 2016 Olympic medal winners, like Yosbani Veitía from Sancti Spiritus who faced bronze medalist Yoel Finol from Venezuela in the 52kg division; Roniel Iglesias from Pinar del Rio who fought silver medal winner Shakhram Giyasov of Uzbekistan in the 69kg; or the bout between Julio César La Cruz and Bektemir Melikuziev also from Uzbekistan and Rio 2016 silver medalist in the 75kg division.

The competition represented a tough challenge for the Domadores, which in all respects they overcame despite several away defeats. On their home turf in Havana’s Ciudad Deportiva, however, the Cubans were unbeatable, where they consolidated their advance to the grand final against the Astana Arlans of Kazakhstan.

Despite being unable to retain their crown won the previous year, finishing in second, Cuba is the only nation to have made it to four consecutive WSB finals.

Beyond the undeniable quality of certain figures in the team, this achievement should been seen as indicative of the solid performance and consistency of the entire squad, which has seen the Domadores win two gold and two silver medals in four competitions.

In June, Cuban boxers traveled to Honduras to participate in the continental qualifier for the 2017 World Championships in Hamburg, Germany, where they won eight gold and two silver medals with the entire team qualifying for the most important event of the year.

The Domadores gave a spectacular performance in Germany, securing five World titles and two silver medals to retain its position as champion among teams which won in the previous tournament held in Qatar 2015, also constituting an extra boost after Uzbekistan took the top spot on the country medal chart in the Río 2016 Olympics.

The European competition also saw the participation of exceptional boxers including Hasanboy Dustmatov, Rio Olympic gold medalist from Uzbekistan in the 49kg division; World and Olympic champion Yevgueni Tishchenko of Russia (91 kg), and Olympic silver medalist Sofiane Oumiha from France (60 kg), all in search of glory.
However, just like in the competition, Cubans dominated in their bouts against these high-level opponents.

2018 has just begun and a new edition of the WBS is set to commence February 2, when the Domadores will receive the Heroicos of Colombia in Havana, with the home team aiming to make it to their fifth successive final.

In addition to the WSB, Mexico will be hosting the regional qualifier for the Central American and Caribbean Games Barranquilla 2018, where Cuban boxers will be looking to win in almost all divisions and contribute to seeing Cuba rank first on the country medal chart, a difficult feat with hosts Colombia and the Mexican team expected to pose a tough challenge.