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It’s Been A While: After 60 Years, Cuba Allows Its Boxers To Turn Pro

By: Sean Crose

The last time the island nation of Cuba was involved in the professional fight game was way back in 1962. John F Kennedy was in the White House that year, while Lawrence of Arabia dominated the box office and Sonny Liston flattened Floyd Patterson in order to win the heavyweight championship of the world. Indeed, it’s been a while. In a bit of good news during a dark and uncertain time, however, the Cuban Boxing Federation has announced that Cuban boxers will now be able to fight professionally after a sixty year ban that began during reign of dictator Fidel Castro.

The breakthrough came when the Federation and Golden Ring Promotions made what is descried as an enormous deal that includes Cuba’s renowned amateur fighters not only turning pro, but fighting as pros outside of Cuba itself. “It is a privilege to have reached this historic agreement with the Cuban sports authorities that will mark a before and after in boxing,” Golden Ring honcho says, via The Ring, “We will seek to place them in the rankings of all professional boxing sanctioning bodies. The boxers will have the full support of the Cuban sports authorities, they will train in Havana and travel to take part in professional fights.”

The news, which was broken by ESPN’s Salvador Rodriguez, is quite significant to the fight world. For Cuban fighters have long been known for their sophisticated skill sets. Although the general perception is that the “Cuban style” of boxing is (understandably) amateur based (meaning less than thrilling) there are certainly aggressive, action oriented Cuban fighters out there to be found. Heavyweight Luis Ortiz comes to mind. What makes the news even more important, however, is the fact that Cuban fighters will no longer have to literally risk life and limb – as they unfortunately have had to – in order to engage in professional careers.

A Golden Ring card will go down in Mexico on May 20th featuring Cuban amateurs making their pro debuts. The card will be aired on ESPN, which will give a considerable platform to the fighters involved. Suffice to say, an influx of boxers out of Cuba may well be arriving in the pro ranks, much like an influx of fighters from former Soviet Block countries did after the fall of the Berlin Wall. That particular wave influenced the entire fight game. Although Cuba isn’t a large country, it’s talent pool has always been considerable.

Things are about to get interesting.

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