Ireland’s Joe Ward had to settle for world silver in Hamburg on Saturday evening, as his frequent tormentor Julio César La Cruz turned in another frustratingly elusive display to once again deny the Irishman gold.
Ward came out very aggressively from the opening bell and soon bungled La Cruz to the canvas, but the referee waved his arms and signaled that a knockdown had not occurred. Ward continued to pour forward, but the Westmeath southpaw struggled to land cleanly on the Cuban, whose hands dangled tauntingly below his knees. Though he rarely landed anything hurtful, La Cruz picked his spots to counter and tapped Ward with enough scoring shots to take the round.
Ward started the second well. He seemed to find his range early on, landing to both the body and the head. However, as the round wore on, the pair slipped back into the pattern of the previous round, with Ward missing and La Cruz scoring. Ward’s consistent aggression and early success made it a tough stanza to score, though.
Near the beginning of the third, Ward lashed out at La Cruz with a wild barrage, but missed with every shot. He smiled as La Cruz backtracked, acknowledging the quality of his foe’s evasive movement. La Cruz continued to make Ward hit fresh air and walk the Moate clubman onto counters for the remainder of the round.
In the end, all five judges had La Cruz winning the fight, with three seeing it 29-28 and the other two scoring the fight 30-27 in favour of the 28-year-old.
This is the third straight AIBA World Championships in which Ward has fallen to La Cruz. In 2013, he was eliminated by the Cuban at the semi-final stage in Almaty, while two years ago in Doha he was beaten in the final. There is no shame in losing out to La Cruz, however. He is the reigning Olympic champion and this win secured him a fourth straight world gold.
Ward might have come up just short of gold for a second time at the toughest tournament in amateur boxing, but at 23 he has already accumulated an astounding array of hardware. The talented lefty has won world junior and youth titles, three European senior golds, and three medals – two silvers and a bronze – at the world seniors. With age on his side, chances are that Ward will have another shot at world glory before his amateur career comes to a close.
Here is a sample of the reaction on Twitter…
— David Mac Donald (@DaveMacDonald11) September 2, 2017
This fight shows what is wrong w/boxing. Joe Ward does all the attacking but Cruz runs+picks a few punches. Attackers shud get the rounds
— Nial O'Farrell (@NialOFarrell) September 2, 2017
No shame in losing to LA Cruz for Joe Ward… Done himself and his country proud #boxing
— Trevor (@trevnulty) September 2, 2017
— The Season Ticket (@_SeasonTicket) September 2, 2017
Hard luck to Joe Ward tonight, beaten in the world boxing finals in Hamburg…. the Cuban he was in with a class above
— NJW (@TheBoomtownRat) September 2, 2017
Hard luck Smoking Joe Ward, another silver medal 🥈 #hamburg2017
— Kenneth Egan OLY (@kenegan30) September 2, 2017
#JoeWard Cruz won't be around forever your set to take over. Plenty of youth on your side 👊🏻👊🏻🇮🇪🇮🇪
— LAMMIE 🇮🇪🇪🇺🇵🇸 (@Ciaran28121971) September 2, 2017
Great effort from joe ward.Done ireland poud #JoeWard
— Padraic Rochford (@LfcAlonso) September 2, 2017
— Gavin Duffy (@GavinDuffy) September 2, 2017
Hard luck Joe Ward… beaten by a now 4 time consecutive world champion. Great effort Joe right til the end. De La Cruz is a phantom 👻
— Darren O'Neill OLY (@DarrenONeil) September 2, 2017
Well done Joe Ward, what an amazing achievement and only 23.. Unbelievable.
— Steven Ward (@Stevenward_) September 2, 2017
Gallant performance from Joe Ward, but looked torn between two styles (natural backfoot & need to be more aggressive). Still, some record
— Ciarán Gallagher (@Ciaran_Gally) September 2, 2017
— sean mc comb (@sugarseantl) September 2, 2017
Joe Ward is an outstanding talent and this country should be immensely proud of him ☘☘☘☘👊👊👊👊
— Niall Kennedy Boxer (@niallbaskennedy) September 2, 2017