Joe Ward gave it everything, but was beaten tonight in the final of the World Championships in Hamburg.
The Westmeath light heavyweight was defeated by Cuban legend for a second successive time in a World Championships decider, but came closer than ever before after a close fight,
Both received byes to the Last 16. Ward easily defeated Georgian Iago Kiziria and Belarussian Mikhail Dauhaliavets, before edging past Uzbek Bektemir Melikuziev in the semis.
La Cruz swatted aside the challenges of Mexican Rogelio Romero, German Ibragim Bazuev, and the man who beat Ward at the Rio Olympics – awkward Ecuadorian Carlos Mina.
While La Cruz v Mina was an ugly affair, it was relatively one-sided. On the other hand Ward’s bout with the bull-like Uzbek Melikuziev last night was exhausting.
However, it was La Cruz who was on the canvas within seconds, but it was ruled a slip. Ward was certainly the aggressor, as La Cruz looked to pot-shot in a close opener.
Ward’s pressure continued in the second with some success, but the reigning champ enjoyed a very strong second half to the stanza.
Ward raised the tempo in the final round, but landed little clean until the last minute when he momentarily staggered the counter-punching Cuban.
Going to the cards after a close three rounds, it was not to be third time lucky for Ward who lost a unanimous decision on scorlines of 30-27 x2 and 29-28 x3
While there was no gold, this is Ward’s third World Championships medal which he takes in addition to his third European gold won earlier in the Summer.
Reminder: The man is only 23 years old.