Boxing Nations: Cuba


Cuba has provided the sport of Boxing with some of its greatest talents – Teofilo Stevenson, Kid Gavilan, Felix Savon et al. Boxers from Cuba are renowned for their supreme boxing skills and knowledge of the sweet science. This style has led the country to be a renowned boxing country, leading to the country’s terrific success in world competitions, such as the Olympics. The heavyweight boxers Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon won three consecutive gold medals, a truly outstanding feat. The success of Cuban boxing is not solely limited to heavyweights or in amateur boxing- outstanding fighters such as Kid Gavilan, Kid Chocolate, Jose Napoles and Jose Casamayor, just to name a few in professional boxing. The mantle of the Cuban boxer is a special one; a boxer with outstanding boxing skills and intelligence; currently, this mantle is held by the supremely talented and gifted boxer from Santiago de Cuba, Guillermo Rigondeaux.


Due to Cuba’s policy of banning professional boxing in 1961 (N.B. Fidel Castro considered professional sport to be against the ideals of the Cuban revolution, thus banning professional sports. the ban was lifted in April 2013 by Raul Castro, with the Cuban government allowing their fighters to enter the World Series of Boxing, an international semi-professional league, which is still not fully allowing fighters to fight in the full professional ranks) , many of the greatest Cuban fighters were only allowed to compete in the amaetur ranks. Thus, the boxing world were limited to see Cuba’s talented fighters through amateur boxing tournaments, most notably the Olympics. Cuba’s status as an elite boxing nation is confirmed by its outstanding success; 116 world amateur medals and 67 Olympic medals, many of those being multiple gold medal winners. Despite the ban on professional boxing in Cuba, the boxing public watched in awe at the outstanding skills of the Cuban fighters; both Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon were offered multi-million dollar deals by US promoters, 5 million USD for Teofilo to fight Muhammad Ali and 25 million USD for Felix Savon to fight Muhammad Ali – both declined, alluding to their inability to betray the ideals of the Cuban Revolution and to leave Cuba and the genuine adoration and love of their people.

Some, however, leave Cuba and look to fight in the professional ranks, leaving behind their country, people and loved ones to strive to achieve success in the professional ranks. Joel Casamayor, gold medal winner in Barcelona 1992, was one of the most noted and successful Cuban professional fighters in the recent era. Guillermo Rigondeaux decided, like Casamayor, to leave Cuba to achieve success in the professional ranks.

In the past 20 years, Joel Casamayor has been one of the most successful boxers from Cuba to leave the Cuban amateur system and join the professional ranks; since he turned professional in 1996, Casamayor was victorious over world-class competition, including Robert Garcia, Nate Campbell and Diego Corrales.  Since Joel Casamayor retired in 2011, more have decided to leave Cuba and join the professional ranks, most notably Rigondeaux, but also fellow gold medalist Yuriorkis Gamboa, talented WBA super-welterweight champion Erislandy Lara, WBA Lightweight champion Richar Abril, IBF Super featherweight champion Rances Barthelmy, and heavyweight contender Mike Perez. Cuba also showed his exceptional boxing talent in 2012 Olympics in London, with 2 additional gold and 2 bronze medals to add to its deep success in the amateur boxing system and showcasing its boxers on the world stage. What is perhaps most outstanding about boxing in Cuba is that despite the political turmoil which has engulfed the country for decades, the country has been able to constantly provide the sport of boxing with tremendous boxers; the country is rightly regarded by boxing fans as the country which is ranked or near the top of producing boxing talent. Regardless whether you watch a Cuban fighter in the amateur or professional ranks in the near future, you will be witnessing a boxer with terrific boxing skills and understanding of the sport, showcasing the talents of Cuban boxing since the inception of the sport.

Article By Qadeer Ali                  Twitter   @abdulqadeer

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