Cuba has opened the door to professional boxing after decades of hiatus

Boxing students practice during training on April 5, 2022, in downtown Havana, Cuba.

Boxing students practice during training on April 5, 2022 in downtown Havana, Cuba. REUTERS / Stringer

Havana – Cuba announced this week that its top fighters would join the professional boxing circuit after decades of exclusion from the sport after former leader Fidel Castro banned sports for pay after his leftist 1959 revolution.

The “Domadores de Cuba” team will participate in several professional leagues this year after signing an agreement with the Mexican company Golden Ring Promotions, state television reported on Monday.

“Our boxers are going to be professional and Olympic champions,” said national team coach Rolando Essebal.

Alberto Puig, president of the Cuban Boxing Federation, said several Cuban boxers would make their debut at a professional program in Mexico.

“In the first round, a team of five or six boxers will participate,” Puig said, adding that four Cubans have already signed their contracts for three years.

A boxing student practices during a training session in downtown Havana, Cuba, on April 5, 2022.

A boxing student practices during training on April 5, 2022, in downtown Havana, Cuba. REUTERS / Stringer

Cuban sports officials say boxers will receive 80% of the compensation for winning the fight, with 15% paid to coaches and 5% to their medical staff.

At a gym in Old Havana, sweat-soaked boxers celebrated the news while punching.

“This is a ray of hope for Cuban boxing,” coach Alberto Gonzalez told Reuters on Tuesday.

“It will be very beneficial for the Cubans … because the country’s economic situation is very bad and it is a way to help (the boxers’) family financially,” he said.

The “Domadores de Cuba” team has competed in the World Series of Boxing (WSB), a semi-professional tournament since 2014, where athletes box without head protectors. As of 2018, Cuba has won three of the five events it has participated in.

Cuba has won 41 gold medals in amateur boxing at the Olympic Games since 1972, although several top-level boxers have dropped out of the United States in recent years to participate in professional events.

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