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After 60 years, professional boxing will be allowed in Cuba

Havana. It has long been an open secret within the Cuban boxing family, and it has been official since April: Cuba will allow professional boxing from May 2022.

On April 4, Alberto Puig, President of the Cuban Boxing Federation (FCB), announced that there was an agreement with the Mexican boxing stable Golden Ring Promotions. Its President Gerardo Saldivar states: “It is a privilege to have reached this historic agreement with the Cuban sports authorities, which marks a before and after in the sport of boxing”.

The Cuban newspaper Gramma sees the approval as a step into “reality”, a “long-awaited challenge”. The boxing department of Hamburg’s FC St. Pauli, on the other hand, simply calls it a “counter-revolution”.

On May 20th, six of Cuba’s top Olympic boxers will compete as professionals at a show in Aguascalientes, Mexico. These included Tokyo gold medalists Julio Cesar La Cruz, Arlen Lopez, Roniel Iglesias and Andy Cruz.

Olympic boxing was Cuba’s antidote to professional boxing. Professional boxing has been banned on the Caribbean island since 1962. Head of state Fidel Castro considered professional boxing corrupt and inhuman. Sport should serve the collective, not self-expression and the gain of individuals.

In Cuba, boxing became a national sport alongside baseball.

The status of a boxer within society is high. Boxers are not considered to be ruthless thugs, but good athletes full of power, endurance and strength. Her elegance, speed and technical perfection are admired all over the world. In recent decades there has been a greater desire to see fights between the great boxers of the world: professional world champions vs. multiple Olympic heavyweight champions, Muhammad Ali vs. Teófilo Stevenson, Mike Tyson vs. Félix Savón.

“The greatest of all time,” Stevenson said: “Although he has never fought professionally, the fact of having won three gold medals in three different Olympic Games guarantees that he makes a formidable opponent for any reigning heavyweight champion or contender would have been at his best”.

Contrary to some of his colleagues, Teófilo Stevenson was immune to courtship from international promoters. “What’s a million dollars against eight million Cubans who love me?” he asked. And Félix Savón, who won three Olympic victories in a row – 1992 in Barcelona, ​​1996 in Atlanta and 2000 in Sydney – as well as six world championships and dominated the amateur boxing scene for twelve years, never aimed for a professional career.

In recent decades, Cuban boxers have dominated the major Olympic competitions. They won 41 gold, 19 silver and 18 bronze. In the national ranking they are in second place behind the USA (50/27/40) and ahead of Great Britain (20/15/27).

What Castro criticized about professional boxing in the early 1960s: corruption and inhumanity, has also crept into Olympic boxing. “Corruption, overindebtedness, alleged criminal biographies, lack of ideas and inaction, dependence on state interests – a chain of catastrophes. This ongoing failure also limits the prospects of sporting work,” states Ralf Elfering from the boxing department of FC St. Pauli.

Financially, amateur sport cannot keep up with professional sport. That is now changing. The athletes receive better preparation and are financially compensated. 80 percent of the profit goes to the boxers. The coaches get fifteen percent and the medical staff get five percent.

They can’t maintain the high sporting ideals that Cuba has cultivated up to now in the professional business, but they no longer have any perspective at the Olympics either. The years to come will see Cuba carving its place in the professional ring.

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