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Cuba retain heavyweight title grip

• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece -- Odlanier Solis maintained Cuba's grip on the showcase heavyweight boxing title by outpointing Viktar Zuyev of Belarus in the Olympic final.

Zuyev started strongly and trailed only by one point after the opening round but the powerful Cuban then moved into gear to win a 22-13 decision after a clean, spectacular final.

Solis succeeds the great Felix Savon, who retired after winning his third Olympic heavyweight title for Cuba four years ago in Sydney.

Cuba have now won the heavyweight gold medal at the last seven Games they have entered.

They boycotted the Olympics in 1984 in Los Angeles and 1988 in Seoul.

The 24-year-old Solis may not be as intimidating as Savon but he nevertheless extended a proud tradition. He also made up for a controversial defeat by a Cuban fighter earlier on Saturday.

Light-welterweight Yudel Johnson said he was robbed after losing on points to the awkward, yet effective Thai Manus Boonjumnong.

Dejected Johnson

The judges were not good," said a dejected Johnson.

"They did not take into account what I did in the ring. They should have penalised him for the way he fought. I feel I deserved the gold medal."

With seven boxers in the weekend finals, Cuba had been dreaming of matching their seven boxing titles from the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, a record at non-boycotted Games.

But Manus ruined it, frustrating the more spectacular Cuban with accurate counter-punching to win a 17-11 decision.

All had started well for Cuba, flyweight Yuriorkis Gamboa outpointing Frenchman Jerome Thomas 38-23 with a stylish performance to win the flyweight title.

Gamboa dedicated the victory to his father, a boxing coach who chased glory in the ring in vain before deciding to teach the sport.

"My father's dream was to fight for the national team and get a gold at the Olympics," said Gamboa. "He couldn't do that. I promised him I'd get a gold."

Cuba's main rivals, Russia failed to meet their goals with just three boxers in the finals but have won two golds already courtesy of featherweight Alexei Tichtchenko and middleweight Gaydarbek Gaydarbekov.

The 20-year-old Tichtchenko convincingly outpointed North Korea's Kim Song-guk, constantly finding his way through his opponent's guard to win 39-17 on points.

Gaydarbekov then beat Kazakhstan's Gennadiy Golovkin 28-18 in a fierce if not exciting middleweight final.

There was plenty of holding in the last round with Gaydarbekov keen to protect his lead and doing just that to win gold after leaving Sydney with the silver.

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