Last Saturday, June 5, the weight of a whole nation rested on the shoulders of a few men in the Serhedci Olympic Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan. After an opening day dominated by the Cuba Domadores, things were different on the second day with the experienced hometown team Azerbaijan Baku Fires leading 5-4 when the tenth and final bout of the World Series of Boxing Finals got underway. The light heavyweight (81kg) boxer from Camagüey, Julio César “The Doctor” la Cruz, entered the ring with no other option than to win to keep Cuba’s dream alive in the final, facing Mikhail Dauhaliavets (0-3).
“The Doctor” remained unaffected and delivered a world-class performance. His feet danced on the canvas and his blurring blows proved too quick for his opponent. La Cruz claimed all five rounds and gave Cuba the opportunity to potentially be crowned champions in WSB Season IV. We talked with him to gain his views on the final.
First of all, congratulations on the title and your fantastic performance. How did it feel ahead of the fight, knowing that only you could keep alive the hopes of a whole team,of a whole country, in the battle for the championship?
Thank you. What is sure is that these are very important moments in the career of any sportsman, because all of the team’s hard work during the whole season, and the fortunes of his country depend on the result of this one boxer, over one single fight.
What does this triumph in Baku mean to you?
It means a lot. For seven months, the Domadores have fought to obtain the title in the fourth season of the World Series of Boxing and even though it was only our first participation, we managed to beat all the other teams to actually win the championship.
What was the toughest part of the final – to see the fights of your teammates or the moment when you are about to enter the ring?
I think that all moments are tough. The other teams and the other boxers are well prepared too and they are ready to fight as much as we are for victory.
Which moment of the final will you remember the most?
What I remember most is that I had the opportunity to level the score. It was really important for me to give hope and a sign that our chances were still alive to my team so that one of my teammates had the chance to win the competition for Cuba.
How was the return of the team to Havana?
To tell the truth, we have already started training again as we have other upcoming events. The people of our country are very happy with the Domadores’ triumph and they have welcomed us back very positively. In the streets of the island, there is constant talk of boxing and about this WSB title because it is a prestigious competition that has the best boxers in the world participating in it.
After the success of the Domadores in their initial season, do you think this has had an impact on Cuban boxers in general?
This success has further fuelled the desire to train boxers here in Cuba because we see we have the possibility to continue winning titles. Also, the Cuban school of boxing has gained a lot of respect on the international stage with this victory.
And the format of WSB, do you see it as being attractive?
I think the format used this season is very positive, especially the fact that the number of weight categories was extended. In addition, fighting every two weeks is also very good, it allows for recovery which is really important. I would be pleased if the same format is kept for Season V as it will provide qualification for the Olympic Games and, furthermore, valuable preparation for them.
What can the followers of the Cuba Domadores expect for WSB Season V? And what can they expect from Julio César la Cruz?
The Domadores are already preparing for the new season. Our fans can expect the very best from us as always. Every time we enter the ring, we do our best and I think that simply because of this, they can count on us at any time. From Julio César la Cruz, they can expect that in every one of his fights he will put on a great show and that he will always be looking for the victory.