The entry of Cuban boxers into the World Boxing Series represents a significant change in sporting policy in Cuba and has had some profound effects as Cuban boxers have for the first time received payment for the bouts fought. From a personal level the World Series of Boxing with regular bouts at Ciudad Deportiva has brought back memories from my youth.
When I was eleven, Havana hosted the World Amateur Boxing Championship. It was clearly one of the most spectacular sports events I have ever been able to attend. The quality of the boxers who reached the finals was extraordinary.
That competition was marked, among many things, by the brilliant boxing of a man who would later become one of the huge legends in professional boxing, the Puerto Rican Wilfredo Gómez, and by the convincing performance of the Cuban team that managed to win the title easily. Among the figures that made an impression then were Jorge Hernández and Teófilo Stevenson.
From that time, I have been a fervent fan of the world of the ring and I became an avid follower of Cuban boxing, admiring its virtues and lamenting its shortcomings, enjoying its advances and suffering from the setbacks. It is a fact that the history books have recorded a solid list of Olympic and world champs for Cuba, including the stellar names of Teófilo Stevenson, Félix Savón, Mario Kindelán and Guillermo Rigondeaux. Rigondeaux is active in professional boxing and has a great future for unifying the world title.
I think there was an era when amateur boxing had a visible setback related to the excess of measures taken to protect athletes, such as for example the use of head gear; this resulted in losing a bit of the spectacle in the sport and the interest of many fans dwindled.
We are now at a time when the AIBA is trying to recover lost ground; it is just this World Boxing Series now in progress that appears to be one of the ways to achieve this. The incorporation of Cuba into this competition creates new expectations: it is no secret that Cuban boxing has great technical qualities. In general Cuba’s style is to assume fights that have been being refined for decades. Very specific elements are going to play a decisive role in this, such as absolute mastery of the jab, repartee fighting, feinting movements and an entire range of dexterity proven in the moves. This agrees with the philosophy that boxing is not just the art of hitting, but the art of not hitting while making sure your blows are done effectively.
In this analysis we can discover the contributions of Cuba to the new reality of boxing; from the technical point of view, Cuba presents a real challenge that clearly must become increased because of qualities we haven’t gone into yet or which we have simply lost along the way. The trainers of our national team must still insist on assimilation and greater drive during the matches.
At the end of the eliminatory round of this World Series (2013-2014), Cuba is in first place with a total of 21 victories and only 4 defeats after having swept through Mexico, Poland and Russia, 3-2 win against the Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan teams. Among the Cubans, the exceptional performance in the 60 Kg. class belongs to the world champion Lázaro Álvarez, in 56 kg to Robeisy Ramírez, in 69 Kg to Roniel Iglesias and in 81 kg to world champ Julio Cesar La Cruz.
We can also state that today we have a full roster of very young pugilists and this allows us to have more than two or three top men in each division. This phenomenon is the result of continuous work being done all over the island in the Schools Category. That is where the talent is found, recruited for the top performance training centers where they get polished and start representing Cuba in the Youth Category.
The Domadores de Cuba’s training headquarters are in the suburbs of Havana, at an emblematic place called La Finca del Wajay. It is a veritable hive of activity dedicated to the rigorous physical preparation of athletes. Strict discipline contributes to what we define as concentration. Head of the technical crew is Rolando Acevar who receives the useful counsel of the legendary Alcides Cegarra, head coach for our boxers during a stellar period.
For most Cuban fans, unable to enjoy professional boxing for more than fifty years, the incorporation into the World Boxing Series has been a noteworthy event. Even though it is certain that what we are watching in this competition is a sort of middle ground between two types of boxing, it does help to transform the way of thinking of many spectators, and this seems to be very positive.
Until the present time “The Flag-ship of Cuban Sport” as our team is known in Cuba is moving swiftly forward. But it must be realistic. It has to understand that our team has not yet met up with many of the best in the other teams. Once that happens, we will have a more exact idea about where we stand and we will be able to enjoy a show having much greater quality.