Ireland's Joe Ward is beaten by Cuban light heavyweight superstar Julio Cesar la Cruz
Ireland's Joe Ward has suffered his fourth career loss to Cuban light heavyweight superstar Julio Cesar la Cruz in the semi-final of the prestigious Chemistry Cup tournament in Halle, Germany.
However, Ward – who is four years younger than the four time World champion and Rio Olymmpic gold medalist – floored him with a smashing left hook in the first round. La Cruz was quickly back on his feet and ultimately did enough to sway three of the judges as he maintained his one hundred percent record against the Moate southpaw on a split 3-2 decision.
Ward, the current European champion, lost to La Cruz in the last two World championship finals, shook his head in disbelief when the verdict, which was greeted by boos from the crowd, was announced.
Ward will bring home a bronze medal from the tournament, but crucially the fight marks a turning point in the nature of the rivalry between the two best amateur light heavyweights in the world as the Cuban had won the previous three fights against Ward on unanimous verdicts.
Overall it was a disappointing day for the Irish with flyweight Conor Quinn, welterweight Kieran Molloy and lightweight George Bates all losing 5-0 in their respective semi-final bouts. The latter was beaten by Cuban Jorge Estrada-Alvarez, who lost to John Joe Nevin in the semi-final of the London Olympics.
Dublin heavyweight Kiril Afanasev will contest tomorrow's final having advanced on a walkover. He meets Cuban Erislandy Savon, nephew of three-time Olympic heavyweight champion Felix Savon.