La Cruz, the current Olympic and World gold medallist, controversially beat Irish captain Ward on a 3-2 split decision in the Chemistry Cup 81kg semi-final in Halle, Germany yesterday.
Ward floored the Cuban, who took a count, with a right hook in the first and dominated the second while the third round of the repeat of the last two light-heavy World finals, which La Cruz won, was close.
Ward, who usually does not react to some of the seemingly arbitrary scoring in amateur boxing, was shaking his head in disbelief after the decision was announced, as were many neutrals at ringside.
Irish head coach Zaur Antia, who is working Ireland’s corner with Carruth, Philip Keogh and Paul Thompson, was adamant his man won.
“Joe destroyed him. He won the first two rounds, he won the fight. People could not believe that they broke this boy’s (Ward) heart,” said Antia in sentiments echoed by Carruth.
“Joe was winning the first round convincingly and he dropped him with about twenty seconds to go. The Cuban got a count,” said the Barcelona 1992 champion.
“Joe won the second and the third was even. You could see the reaction of the crowd, the crowd knows who wins. Joe won that fight. His (La Cruz) time is coming to an end, Joe has his number.”
Meanwhile, Conor Quinn, Kieran Molloy and George Bates lost their semi-finals yesterday. All three, like Ward, will be brining home bronze.
Irish heavyweight Kiril Afanasev received a walkover after Slovakia’s David Michalek failed a medical.
The Dubliner meets Cuba’s Erislandy Savon, nephew of legendary three-time Olympic champion Felix Savon, in today’s final.