Tokyo 2020 boxing in review: Cuba rules the ring with golden Games

Posted at 8:34 AM, Aug 06, 2021

Boxers from 76 nations duked it out for 16 days in 267 bouts at Tokyo’s legendary Kokugikan Arena in pursuit of Olympic glory, giving fight fans incredible matchups across 13 weight classes.

Cuba led the pack at the Tokyo Games with a total of four gold medals, dominating the men’s welterweight, lightweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight events.

On the women’s side, nine years after female boxing debuted at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the Tokyo Games added two weight classes: featherweight and welterweight. 

Men's competition

Professional boxers represented Team USA for the first time at the Olympics, with Duke Ragan becoming the first U.S. pro boxer to win an Olympic medal after losing 3-2  to Albert Batyrgaziev of the ROC in the featherweight gold medal match. The other American professional fighters who made their Olympic debut in Tokyo were middleweight Troy Isley and lightweight Keyshawn Davis, who took silver in his class. 

Great Britain’s Galal Yafai took the top spot in the men’s flyweight division, earning Britain’s first gold medal in that division since 1956 with a win over Carlo Paalam. Paalam made history in his own right, though, taking home silver and the Philippines’ first-ever medal in the division. 

Brazil’s Hebert Sousa scored what was perhaps the most shocking victory of the Games, nailing a third-round left-hook knockout on Ukraine's Oleksandr Khyzhniak to take the middleweight gold. 

The welterweight division, meanwhile, presented an entirely different type of shocker. Upon learning he defeated Mauritius’ Merven Clair 4-1 in the quarterfinals, Irish boxer Aidan Walsh’s victory leap resulted in a bad landing that fractured one of his ankles and effectively took him out of the competition. Walsh took bronze in light of the injury, and his would-be semifinal opponent Pat McCormack went on to face Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias in the final. Iglesias won that bout by unanimous decision to score his second career gold.

Cuba continued its golden campaign between the ropes for another two straight days. First, welterweight Arlen Lopez outpunched Great Britain’s Ben Whittaker 4-1 to capture the weight class’ top prize, then heavyweight Julio la Cruz completed the country’s gold medal boxing trio with a unanimous decision win over Muslim Gadzhimagomedov of the ROC. Then, on the final day of the competition, Andy Cruz put an exclamation point on boxing at the Tokyo Games with a 4-1 win over Keyshawn Davis of the U.S.

FULL GOLD MEDAL MATCH REPLAYS: Flyweight | Featherweight | Lightweight | Welterweight | Middleweight | Light Heavyweight | Heavyweight | Super Heavyweight

SEE MORE: Andy Cruz wins gold, Keyshawn Davis takes lightweight silver

Women's competition

Sena Irie of Japan became the Olympic Games’ inaugural featherweight gold medalist, with her final match opponent, Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines, taking silver. Great Britain’s Karris Artingstall and Irma Testa – the first woman to represent Italy in the Olympic Games – won bronze.

Another history-maker was Turkey's Busenaz Surmeneli, who defeated China's Gu Hong to become the first female welterweight gold medalist. Oshae Jones captured the sole U.S. women's boxing medal of the Games in that weight class with a bronze.

Kellie Harrington of Ireland earned an emotional victory over Brazil's Beatriz Ferreira to snare the top spot in the lightweight category, while Great Britain's Lauren Price bested China's Li Qian with a strategic, defensive and ultimately effective three rounds of boxing with a unanimous decision win to take gold in the middleweight class.

Perhaps the most dominant female competitor overall at the Tokyo Games was Bulgarian flyweight Stoyka Zhelyazkova Krasteva, who scored back-to-back unanimous decision victories in the semifinal and final round to claim a well-earned gold. 

FULL GOLD MEDAL MATCH REPLAYS: Flyweight | Featherweight | Lightweight | Welterweight | Middleweight

SEE MORE: Busenaz Surmeneli defeats China's Gu Hong to win boxing gold

Medal table

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Cuba 4 0 1 5
Great Britain 2 2 2 6
ROC 1 1 4 6
Brazil 1 1 1 3
Turkey 1 1 0 2
Japan 1 0 2 3
Ireland 1 0 1 2
Bulgaria 1 0 0 1
Uzbekistan 1 0 0 1
United States 0 3 1 4
Philippines 0 2 1 3
China 0 2 0 2
Ukraine 0 1 0 1
Kazakhstan 0 0 2 2
Armenia 0 0 1 1
Australia 0 0 1 1
Azerbaijan 0 0 1 1
Taipei 0 0 1 1
Finland 0 0 1 1
Ghana 0 0 1 1
India 0 0 1 1
Italy 0 0 1 1
Netherlands 0 0 1 1
New Zealand 0 0 1 1
Thailand 0 0 1 1