There had been fears that the prodigious talent from Cuba would never fulfil his potential after being knocked in his first preliminary bout at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011 but Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo came back in barnstorming fashion this summer to claim the sport's biggest prize, the Olympic gold medal.
After some spectacular displays saw him take gold at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Milan 2009, huge expectations were placed on Iglesias Sotolongo's shoulders to continue performing at the highest level. The virtuoso Cuban southpaw came back from his set back in 2011 to wow the world with his sublime technique at the London ExCeL to give his nation its 33rd Olympic gold medal.
Born in Pinar del Rio on 14 August 1988, he began his boxing career in his hometown at the age of nine and has since been trained by his coach Julio Mesa and Pedro Roque of the national team. Iglesias Sotolongo first came to prominence in 2005 when he sensationally won the Cuban National Championships Playa Giron Tournament before his 17th birthday. There, in the absence of 2004 Athens Olympic Champion Yuriorkis Gamboa Toledano, the super talented teenager had too much in his arsenal for his older rivals as he took his first elite title in style.
Iglesias shined at the AIBA Junior World Boxing Championships Agadir 2006 where he stopped Brazil's Everton Dos Santos Lopes in the quarter-final and triumphed over Azamat Smagulov of Kazakhstan in the gold medal contest. Cuba had to miss the AIBA World Boxing Championships Chicago 2007 but still achieved ten quotas places for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
He was a ranked outsider for honours in the Light Welterweight (64kg) class before the Beijing Olympics where he would celebrate his 20th birthday. The world was soon introduced to this precocious talent after he eliminated Russia's Gennadiy Kovalev to move into the last four where he was eventually defeated by the eventual winner, Manus Boonjumnong of Thailand. That valuable bronze medal had the whole competition stand up and take notice of this sensational fighter.
There was now an added maturity to his art and after winning the 2008 AIBA World Cup in Moscow, he travelled to the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Milan as the overwhelming favourite. He did not disappoint as a series of flawless performances saw him defeat Mongolian veteran Uranchimeg Munkherdene in semis before outboxing US teenager Frankie Gomez in the final.
Following another continental title in 2010, the seeded Iglesias was shocked by Ukraine's European Cup winner Denys Berinchyk in the opening preliminary round of the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011, exiting the competition in the last 64 stage and failing to get that all important Olympic quota place for 2012.
He doubled up his efforts following that loss and went to Guadalajara and won the Panamerican Games a month later and defeated the newly crowned AIBA World Champion Everton Dos Santos Lopes of Brazil in the process. Valentino Knowles of Bahamas was his victim in the gold medal contest.
Surprisingly two of his Cuban compatriots missed the quota at the AIBA American Olympic Qualifying Event in Rio de Janeiro but he was untroubled throughout as he cruised to victory to earn his place at the London 2012 Olympic Games. He was too strong for Puerto Rico's 18-year-old Francisco Vargas Ramirez in the final.
As a result, he arrived at the London Olympics in the best shape possible and had that swagger about him from the off. Colombia's Cesar Andres Villarraga was a perfect opening opponent for him as he was dispatched easily. He once again faced the AIBA World Champion Everton Dos Santos Lopes but nothing would stop him as he cruised into the last 16. Uzbekistan's Uktamjon Rahmonov and Italy's Vincenzo Mangiacapre both followed and although both world-class boxers, there continued to be no stopping Iglesias Sotolongo as he reached the final.
It was fitting then that he would meet Denys Berinchyk of the Ukraine in the Olympic Light Welterweight final in London, the one who had eliminated him first round in Baku. Showing that he could mix it up with the best in the business and with the opportunity to settle an old score, the Cuba southpaw upped his level once more to become Olympic Champion. (Read full report)
Many expect the Cuban star to keep going until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and with the record of both Felix Savon and Teofilo Stevenson in his sights, expect him to once again come to the fore in four years time.
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