Cuban boxing ecstasy to enter the professional ring after 60 years

Havana (AFP) – There is an atmosphere of excitement at La Finca, Cuba’s boxing cathedral, where Los Domadores trains extensively for his next professional debut. “This is what we have been waiting for so long,” said its captain, Julio Cesar La Cruz.

The Cuban authorities gave the green light this week for Cuban boxers to participate in the professional ring for the first time since 1962, under the tutelage of the local federation, and at the National Boxing School (La Finca), in the suburbs of La Havana, the announcement was activated.

“He came a little to cheer us all and please the whole boxing family,” Rolando Acipal, 64, told AFP.

For La Cruz, 32, a two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion, the news came “at the right time”. “It would be something beautiful, special, and historical,” he adds, drenched in sweat, after nearly three hours of sparring.

“Dancer” Andy Cruz (26), who won his first Olympic title in Tokyo 2020, is also “happy” that he will now be able to take on the “best boxers in the world” in his class.

But there is another compelling reason to celebrate. According to the Cuban Boxing Federation, boxers will receive 80% of the income they receive from each fight.

“This economic bonus will be very beneficial for us because many of us have families,” confirms two-time Olympic champion Arleen Lopez, a father of two, as the country faces its worst economic crisis in nearly 30 years, due to the impact of the pandemic on the tightening of the US blockade.

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Episode is hot

Professional sport was abolished in Cuba by the revolution of Fidel Castro who chose to develop amateurs and bring the small island to the global elite in some disciplines. In 2013, shy comebacks with indirect formulas began in sports like baseball, looking for new forms of funding.

Cuban Olympic champion Andy Cruz attends a training session at the National Boxing School, in Havana, on April 7, 2022. YAMIL LAG FB

After five decades of non-professional training, the local team was able to quickly adapt to semi-professional boxing at the World Championships (WSB), in which it debuted in 2014 with the “Los Domadores” franchise. He won three of the five editions he participated in, including the last one that was held in 2018.

Acebal is confident that there will be no problems with “adaptation” to charter boxing, which, in addition to taking a larger number of rounds, is distinguished by more offensiveness and a stronger strike.

“We’re already in the pipeline and these issues have been trained,” he identifies, while directing the training, which Lopez considers a “double” of the norm.

Above all, he does not lose sight of the five boxers (La Cruz, Andy, Lopez, Yuinles Feliciano and Lazaro Alvarez) who will participate in the professional appearance of Cuba next May in Mexico, according to the contract signed with the Mexican company Golden Ring Promotions. ..

AMB opens its doors

The joy of the announced opening crossed the borders of the island.

Members of the Olympic teams from Cuba, France and Spain take part in an empty session at the National Boxing School, in Havana, on April 7, 2022.
Members of the Olympic teams from Cuba, France and Spain take part in an empty session at the National Boxing School, in Havana, on April 7, 2022. YAMIL LAG FB

“Good news for professional boxing,” said Felipe Martinez, president of the Spanish Boxing Federation, who is accompanying a group of fighters from his country who are training at La Finca de Face to Paris, because “Cuba is a factory of champions”-2024.

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For his part, Luis Mariano Gonzalez, the Cuban coach of the team that France is preparing for these matches and who is also training on the island, considered it “a step that will raise the level of Cuban boxing.”

The World Boxing Association (WBA), one of the four most important entities in professional boxing, has opened its “doors” to Cubans after learning of the agreement with Golden Rings Promotions.

“It seems to me that it is a new opportunity for the Cuban boxers living in their country,” said its president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza, according to the website of the association, which was home to the great Cuban fighters who left the island. Trying their luck in charter boxing, among them are Euryorques Gamboa, Guillermo Rigondo and Luis Ortiz.

Indeed, Acebal believes that opening up to professional boxing can stem this exodus, who scored his last episode in March when boxers Kevin Brown and Harish Ruiz left the Cuban delegation attending the Pan American Championships in Ecuador.

“Anyone who is a little smart wouldn’t have to leave,” he says.

The question that fans of fist sports are now asking themselves is whether the US ban, in force since 1962, would allow Cuban champions to participate in the major professional boxing cards, which are usually organized in that country.

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