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Olympics-Boxing-La Cruz takes heavyweight gold as Cuba rules ring in Tokyo

TOKYO (Reuters) -Julio la Cruz outclassed Russian Muslim Gadzhimagomedov to win the men’s Olympic heavyweight boxing title on Friday, underlining Cuba’s dominance of the competition with a third gold medal from five awarded so far in Tokyo.

La Cruz stayed on top against the Russian giant and showed his decade of championship-winning experience, repeatedly dodging Gadzhimagomedov’s powerful punches before moving in on the counter with his taller opponent exposed.

Known in Cuba as “the shadow”, La Cruz, 31, pounded his chest with crossed arms before his cheering team in the arena, removing his mouthguard to flash a gold-teeth smile before collapsing on his back on the canvas to take in his victory.

Cuba will get a shot at one more gold on Sunday after Andy Cruz fended off fiery Australian Harry Garside of Australia with a unanimous decision in the men’s lightweight semi-finals.

Garside was unrelenting in his attack and took the fight to the double world champion, but his quickfire punches were no match for the Cuban’s precision.

Cruz’s opponent will be American Keyshawn Davis, who ended Armenia’s hopes of a Tokyo Olympics gold medal with his semi-final defeat of Hovhannes Bachkov.

BATTLE FOR BRITAIN

In the women’s middleweight contest, reigning world champion Lauren Price of Britain made a thrilling last-round comeback to reach the final, where she will face Li Qian, who earned herself a shot at winning China’s first boxing gold since London 2012.

Price beat Nouchka Fontijn by the slimmest of margins to deprive the Dutchwoman of a place in the final for a second successive Games, while Li overcame Russian Zenfira Magomedalieva in a tough and at times scrappy bout.

Price came out battling from the start, but Fontijn showed her composure to keep the Briton’s quick punches at bay and win the round by a narrow margin, with the prospect of a first Dutch boxing gold in nearly a century awaiting her if she qualified.

Price, 27, was docked a point for excessive holding in the second round and left herself with an uphill struggle but turned the fight around in the final round to pull off a stunning win.

“It was all in the last round,” Price said. “I needed a big last round … It doesn’t get harder than that today.”

“It’s a dream come true, but I’m not stopping. My main aim is to go and win that gold,” she said.

Li, bronze medallist at the Rio Olympics and a two-times world middleweight champion, will face Price in Sunday’s final and is one of two Chinese boxers with a remaining shot at a Tokyo gold.

Li overcame a docked point against Magomedalieva and held her nerve to prevail in a tricky contest and celebrated long before her win was announced.

“I’m delighted to have reached the final at the Olympics,” she said. “My only aim is to win the gold medal.”

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