Silver for Ward as La Cruz shows class
There was no golden coronation for Ireland's Joe Ward at the World boxing championships last night in Hamburg after he lost to Julio La Cruz in the much anticipated light heavyweight showdown.
The fight lived up to expectations, right down to the outcome, with a unanimous 5-0 win for the 28-year-old Cuban superstar, who has now won four World titles on the spin in the 81kg category and remains on target to equal, if not surpass Felix Savon's record of six World crowns.
But the scoreline did Ward's brave effort scant justice as this was unquestionably his best performance so far against his Cuban nemesis. While two of the judges gave the defending title holder the fight on a 30-27 score, the other three gave him victory by the narrowest of margins 29-28.
La Cruz was on the canvass within 50 seconds but the referee ruled it a slip. Still, from his bright start, it was obvious that the Irishman intended to bring the fight to his opponent. He was going to make it a battle and there was none of the usual flamboyance from the reigning champion.
The Cuban danced around Ward at the start of the second, staying clear of the Irishman's right jab. A good left from Ward emphasised that he was the more aggressive fighter and he improved as the round progressed.
With 50 seconds left a big left from Ward appeared to momentarily stun La Cruz and a lone chant of 'you'll never beat the Irish' rang around the packed arena.
Ward seemed to be enjoying himself though La Cruz appeared to think he had enough done and stayed out of range though he did momentarily catch Ward on the ropes midway through the third. In the final minute La Cruz was beating Ward too the punch and he seemed content with his night's work when the final bell sounded. And so it proved, Ward's brave effort wasn't sufficient.
This is Ward's third loss to La Cruz in the World championships following a semi-final defeat in Almaty in 2013 and a final loss in Doha two years ago. Obviously it's frustrating for Ward, but at 23 he is still learning his trade and vowed last night to ultimately get the better of his nemesis Julia La Cruz.
"He is 28 years' old but I will get better as I get older and hopefully he will slow down," said Ward, who secured his second World championship silver medal despite the loss.
"I am telling you that within the next couple of years, I will get him. I am going to go home and enjoy it for a few weeks and then I will be back training to learn and improve. I always want to get better.
"Without the Cuban, I would be three times World champion and that's the reality because I am a long way away from the rest of them (the other boxers in the 81kg class). There is just that one guy who has the edge over me now"
Sunday Indo Sport