Tokyo (AFP) – Cuba’s Julio la Cruz was shot in an armed robbery in 2014 — but now he is a two-time Olympic champion after victory in the heavyweight boxing final in Tokyo on Friday.

Luckily, la Cruz was not seriously hurt when he was held up in Cuba and shot in the hip, and went on to win light-heavyweight gold two years later in Rio.

Now 31, he put the trauma farther behind him by adding Tokyo Olympic gold when he defeated Russia’s Muslim Gadzhimagomedov on unanimous points.

But he said that it had taken some time to recover from the attack.

“What happened was tough but I never lost hope and had to heal for some time,” said la Cruz, a four-time world champion at light-heavyweight.

“But the Cuban doctors did a marvellous job and thanks to my hope, my faith, my family, the Cuban people and psychologists that supported me, I’m here today.

“I was able to get these two titles, and I think I deserve it.”

So where is that bullet which could have wrecked his career and even taken his life?

“My mother has it as a token of remembrance of what happened,” he said.

The elusive and wily la Cruz, who is nicknamed “the Shadow”, collapsed flat on his back in the ring when his victory was announced against Gadzhimagomedov.

La Cruz is refusing to settle with double Games gold.

“Paris (2024) is only three years away. I’ll go the next Olympics and try to win a third gold medal for my country,” said the proud Cuban.

– ‘I beat the bully’ –

In the men’s lightweight semi-finals, there was disappointment for Australia’s Harry Garside, a certified plumber who also enjoys ballet and sported painted fingernails after his bout in the quarter-finals.

The 24-year-old lost on unanimous points to Cuba’s impressive Andy Cruz, but Garside still takes home bronze — Australia’s first Olympic boxing medal in 33 years.

Cruz goes up against Keyshawn Davis, 22, with the talented American one win away from securing a first men’s Olympic boxing gold for the USA since Andre Ward in 2004.

Davis beat Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov on unanimous points in a rough-and-tumble encounter that saw both fighters twice end up wrestling one another to the canvas.

“I was anxious all day to fight this guy because all tournament he was walking around with his chest all big, thinking he’s scary and the biggest, baddest fighter,” said Davis.

“I always like to fight the bullies — I beat the bully today.”

In the women’s middleweight, Britain’s Lauren Price — who is also a footballer who has represented Wales — narrowly defeated Dutch boxer Nouchka Fontijn on split points and will face China’s Li Qian for gold.

With two more days of boxing left in Tokyo, Cuba have won three golds in the sport, the Russians one and Japan one. Eight more titles remain to be decided.