ATHENS, Greece – Andre Ward (search) won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division Sunday, beating Magomed Aripgadjiev (search) of Belarus to claim a bit of redemption for an American team that took a beating at the Olympics. Standing on the medal podium, Ward looked upward and blew a kiss, a gesture of honor for his late father.
Fighting in the last bout of the games, Ward found his mark with quick inside punches in the third round to win the first boxing gold for the United States since David Reid in 1996.
"I just couldn't see myself coming away with a bronze or silver medal," Ward said. "I couldn't see myself settling for that."
Ward trailed after two rounds, but came on strong in the final two despite a swelling around his right eye that coaches worked on in the corner between rounds. He won the third round 7-2, then remained aggressive in the final round to widen his margin of victory to 20-13.
Ward's medal was one of two for the U.S. team, which brought nine boxers to Athens. Earlier, middleweight Andre Dirrell (search) won a bronze.
"I'm numb," Ward said. "My eyes hurt a little, but it's definitely worth it."
"I believe he was looking down on me," Ward said. "I just wish he was here."
Frank Ward, who introduced his son to boxing, died suddenly two years ago, and Ward boxed through the Olympics with a picture of him in his shoes. Deeply religious, he said he believes his father helped guide him to the gold.
"I felt his spirit all through this tournament," Ward said.
Cuba had another big day Sunday, winning three more finals to bring its boxing gold medal count to five, two more than Russia. Defending Olympic champion Guillermo Rigondeaux and Mario Kindelan both won, and so did light flyweight Yari Bhartelemy.
The Cuban total didn't match the seven golds it won in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but was better than the four Cuba took home in each of the last two games.
In perhaps the most anticipated final, Kindelan beat teenage sensation Amir Khan (search) of Britain for the lightweight gold.
Kindelan was too wily and experienced for the 17-year-old Khan, who had won four straight fights in impressive fashion. The Cuban piled up points counterpunching, then got out of the way when Khan tried to press the fight.
Late in the fourth round, Khan had the crowd roaring when he landed a series of right hands, but it was never enough. He ended up dropping a 30-22 decision to the 33-year-old Cuban, who said he would retire after the games.
"You stick around and you'll be the next gold medalist and next world champion," Kindelan told Khan after the fight.
Russian super heavyweight Alexander Povetkin, meanwhile, won a gold without having to throw a punch. Povetkin's opponent in the finals, Mohamed Aly of Egypt, failed the morning medical exam.