London – Amateur world champions Lazaro Alvarez and Julio Cesar la Cruz of Cuba and Everton Dos Santos Lopes of Brazil headline Latin America's contingent in the Olympic boxing competition, which will kick off Saturday at London's Excel Arena.
Alvarez, a bantamweight, and La Cruz, a light heavyweight, will lead a Cuban team determined to erase the memories of the 2008 Games in Beijing, where the Caribbean island failed to win a single boxing gold medal.
The lightweight silver medalist at the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Azerbaijan, Yasnier Toledo, and the light welterweight amateur world champion in 2009, Roniel Iglesias, will also try to add to Cuba's impressive overall medal haul in Olympic boxing: 32 golds, 19 silvers and 12 bronzes.
But fighters from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico also will be in the hunt for medals in London.
Brazil's top hope is Dos Santos Lopes, world light welterweight champion, but other boxers such as Esquiva Falcao Florentino, middleweight bronze medalist in Azerbaijan; and Pan American Games silver medalists Robson Conceicao (lightweight) and Yamaguchi Falcao Florentino (light heavyweight), are expected to reach the latter stages of their respective competitions.
The Dominican Republic, whose lone gold medal in the 2008 Olympics was won by light welterweight Felix Manuel Diaz, sends three fighters to London: bantamweight William Encarnacion, lightweight Wellington Arias and middleweight Junior Castillo.
But the Puerto Rican contingent appears to have a better shot at a medal with light flyweight Jantony Ortiz, a bronze medalist at the Pan American Games; and 18-year-old light welterweight Francisco Vargas, who has made marked improvement over the past two years and could pull off an upset.
Ecuador also will compete for podium spots in London with boxers such as Ytalo Perea, super heavyweight gold medalist in the 2011 Pan American Games; and Julio Castillo, heavyweight silver medalist at that same competition.
Mexico will pin its boxing hopes on bantamweight Oscar Valdez, a bronze medalist at the 2009 World Amateur Boxing Championships who says he has what it takes to defeat Cuba's Alvarez, the reigning world amateur champion in his division.