The Cuban Roniel Iglesias stands between Pat McCormack and an Olympic gold medal
British welterweight Pat McCormack faces the ultimate test when he faces Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias in the final of the Olympics at Tokyo’s Kokugikan Arena on Tuesday (August 3).
The Cuban has a remarkable track record. He became known as a bronze medalist in Beijing in 2008 and was an excellent Olympic gold medalist in London in 2012 (the best boxer of the tournament in this author’s opinion, despite not winning the Val Barker trophy). But he didn’t win a medal in 2016, and in recent years he’s been overshadowed as McCormack and Russian Andrey Zamkovoy battled for control of the division.
But if Iglesias should be forgotten, he realized at this tournament that he is back in his best form in years. He had to turn the swing to win his opening competition against Japanese Sewonrets Okazawa, eliminating American Delante Johnson before overthrowing reigning world gold medalist Zamkovoy.
However, these are all opponents McCormack has either already beaten or, in the case of Johnson, would certainly beat. The Birtley boxer went into this competition as the best seed and convinced of his skills. He made his way past Belarus Aliaksandr Radzionau and Uzbekistan’s wild Bobo-Usmon Baturov, boxing out and overtaking both. In his quarter-finals with Baturov he made an easy cut, but he should be able to do that. He won his semifinals on walkover after Aidan Walsh put strain on his ankle. But that’s not necessarily an advantage. While it gave his cut more time to heal, it denied McCormack a chance to warm up to the finals. Pat definitely wanted the fight to take place and, having beaten Walsh three times before and conveniently beaten in their last fight, he would have been very confident of another win.
“I think it doesn’t really matter [that McCormack didn’t get to box in a semi-final]. I don’t really care, ”said Iglesias. “I never fought against him [before], so it will be the first time to fight him. It’s interesting that it’s going to be the Olympics final, so I’ll just try to win.
“It’s my third medal, which is very important, but I really want to win the gold medal. It is a historic moment for me and for my country, Cuba. I am very happy about this success. “
There are other intangibles. Iglesias is pretty much the only top welterweight that McCormack hasn’t beaten. Refined Cuban stylists have haunted his Olympic experience. Pat just lost to the excellent Cuban Yasnier Toledo Lopez in Rio 2016. The excellent Cuban Andy Cruz eliminated his twin brother Luke McCormack from this tournament. A win for Pat would be the perfect kind of revenge.
But McCormack is the top seed and favorite of the tournament for good reason. “I don’t see it as pressure. I see it as confidence, ”he said. “I beat them all.
“When I went to Rio, I had just turned 21, I was in a major. Now I’ve got the experience behind me, I’ve beaten world champions, I’ve beaten Olympic medalists, so I’m ready to take this medal home with me. “
McCormack could become the first gold medalist for the British dream team Tokyo 2020. This British squad already has five confirmed medalists and has the chance to expand them further on Tuesday. Caroline Dubois and Galal Yafai both boxed in the quarterfinals earlier in the day, where victory would guarantee them a medal.
“There are great fighters on the team,” said Pat. “This is the best team I’ve ever played on and I think when it comes to Tokyo we will get the most medals.”
GB lightweight Dubois boxes Thailand’s Sudaporn lake water around 4.50 a.m. UK time. Flyweight Yafai boxed another Cuban, Yosbany Veitia, around 9:30 a.m. UK time. McCormack’s gold medal match with Iglesias is scheduled for approximately 11:05 a.m. UK time.