The nations of Cuba and Uzbekistan continued their strong showing in the boxing tournament so far with another two finalists, this time competing for gold in the Middleweight category represented by Arlen Lopez of Cuba and Bektemir Melikuziev of Uzbekistan.
The two fighters knowing each other well having met already in the World Championships, in a bout where the Cuban took gold, started off quickly but with the reigning world champion landing the first blow. Lopez pivoted from centre ring to keep himself facing the Uzbek, who darted left and right before moving sporadically forward trying to catch the Cuban with a straight shot. A right hook from Lopez landed behind the guard of Melikuziev who grabbed his opponent before being shaken off to the canvas. Further hooks from the Cuban were made to miss by the Uzbek who bent at the waist and came back with punches of his own.
Lopez maintained his accurate punch picking as he caught the Uzbek trying to launch his attacks. The tight contest was not recorded on the scorecards with all the judges scoring it for the Cuban.
Following this the Uzbek began the second round at a heightened pace, immediately applying pressure onto the Cuban who met his opponent in the centre of the ring and began a trade-off of punches. Lopez maintained his poise and his high guard to fire punches at the oncoming world number two who was more inaccurate with his work.
The Uzbek found occasional success targeting the body but was always receiving returns from the Cuban who exposed the leaky loosely held defences of Melikuziev. Both boxers touched gloves at the end of the second before returning to their corners. The judges saw the second round of the final unanimously in the favour of the Cuban, who with his accurate punching and tighter guard fared better for the majority of the round.
Round three got underway with a flurry of punches thrown at the midriff of Lopez by Melikhuziev, who on his exit was hit by a cracking right hook to the side of his face paying the penalty for retreating without a high held guard. A reaching 1-2 combination was thrown by the Uzbek in retaliation but was countered by a right hook over the top by the Cuban who landed a second right hook as the Uzbek was slightly out of position.
The Cuban realising the success he was having with the right hook landed it again on the Uzbek, his greater accuracy showing as a cut developed above the left eye of Bekhtier Melikuziev. The cut man was given 45 seconds to work on the cut of the Uzbek who managed to stop the flow of blood and action was resumed. Arlen Lopez wasted little time aiming right hooks at the cut and kept his guard up to catch returns. Again as the Uzbek came forward following a break he was led onto a punch, this time a left uppercut that landed as they went into the final minute of the bout.
More right hooks landed on the side of Melikuziev who remained stubborn in keeping a low guard. The Uzbek put in good effort throwing a high volume of punches throughout the bout but he was unable to land with the same accuracy as the Cuban, who often beat his opponent to the punch. The better balance and accuracy, as well as the high guard, of the Cuban led him to a unanimous decision victory and a 5th Middleweight gold for Cuba, equalling the achievements of the United States and the United Kingdom in the division.
A well-deserved winner who boxed sublimely to the gold medal against his talented opponent, beating him for the second time in an elite amateur boxing final.
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