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Cuba boxes up 7 gold, 2 silver medals Ring record is best in non-boycott year


BADALONA, Spain -- While thunder and lightning parted the skies outside the arena and rattled its roof, Cuban boxers strong-armed three more gold medals out of what was supposed to be the most competitive Olympic boxing tournament since 1976.

Yesterday, the final day of boxing, the Cubans won three of their four gold-medal bouts to finish the Summer Games with seven golds and two silvers -- the best boxing performance at a non-boycotted Olympics by any country.

The 1976 U.S. team that was led by Sugar Ray Leonard and Leon and Michael Spinks won five golds in Montreal, the last Olympics at which all the major boxing nations competed.

Germans won twice yesterday to finish second in the gold-medal derby with two.

Light-welterweight Hector Vinent, light-middleweight Juan Lemus and super-heavyweight Roberto Balado all won golds yesterday to join Saturday's winners, light-flyweight Rogelio Marcelo, bantamweight Joel Casamayor, middleweight Ariel Hernandez and heavyweight Felix Savon.

Balado was named the tournament's outstanding boxer.

He was 4-for-4 in the tournament, showed startling foot speed for a 220-pound man and eliminated Larry Donald of the United States in the quarterfinals.

Oscar de la Hoya was the only U.S. champion.

The East Los Angeles lightweight defeated German Marco Rudolph to win his gold medal Saturday.

The United States had Chris Byrd's silver medal and Tim Austin's bronze to show for the 322-bout, two-week tournament.

Cuba, finished the tournament with a 46-5 record.

Another way to look at it: Nine of Cuba's 12 boxers reached the gold-medal bouts, where only two lost.

North Korean flyweight Su Choi-Chol surprised many in the day's first bout with a 12-2 decision over Cuban Raul Gonzalez, who won the silver.

The other Cuban silver medalist was welterweight Juan Hernandez, who lost in Saturday's final to Ireland's Michael Carruth.

"I feel great for our whole team," said light-middleweight champion Lemus, through an interpreter. "We are a close, very tightly knit team. We all understand each other very well."

He was asked the same, tired question about how he feels at being unable to turn pro.

"I am always asked that question at competitions," he said. "We box so the Cuban people can see us. Not for money. For us, our ultimate goal is to represent the people of Cuba. We have free education and training -- we have never had to spend a penny. When we box, it is for the love of it."

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