No more need to defect.
Professional boxing has returned to Cuba following a six-decade hiatus. It all came together after an agreement was struck between the Cuban Boxing Federation and Golden Ring Promotions. Therefore, Cuban fighters, including Olympic champions Julio César La Cruz, Arlen López, Roniel Iglesias, and Andy Cruz, can make their professional debut next month.
ESPN's Salvador Rodríguez was first to report the revelation.
Alberto Puig, president of the CBF, and Gerardo Saldívar, head of Golden Ring Promotions, made the historic announcement on Monday. The first pro event for these Cuban talents will take place on May 20 in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and will be broadcast live on ESPN KNOCKOUT. All Cuban fighters will fight in six-round bouts, and their opponents should be announced within the next few days.
“Three and a half years ago, a serious analysis began that has resulted in the agreement approved and well seen by the country’s sports management and the Cuban Boxing Federation with Golden Ring Promotions for the representation of Cuba in its entry into professional boxing,” stated Puig. “The continuous sports and competitive preparation of Cuban boxers to continue representing and raising the name of Cuban boxing in all competitions where it is part and the economic benefit it represents for boxers, coaching staff, and medical triad who work with the team. They are one of the main objectives.”
“It is a privilege to have reached this historic agreement with the Cuban sports authorities that will mark a before and after in boxing,” said promoter Saldívar. “We will seek to place them (the fighters) in the rankings of all professional boxing bodies for whom we have deep respect. The boxers will have the full support of the Cuban sports authorities, they will train in Havana and travel to take part in the professional fights,” said the president of the Golden Ring.
Professional boxing in Cuba was suspended in 1962, and its practice was only permitted within the amateur ranks, mainly dedicated to the Olympic Games and the World Championships. However, in recent years, a group of young fighters, led by La Cruz, López, Iglesias, three-time Olympic medalist and former world champion Lázaro Álvarez, and amateur star Yoenlis Feliciano Hernandez, sparked a movement that sought to bring pro boxing back to the Island.
Some examples of Cuban boxers who defected and became world champions include future Hall of Famers Joel Casamayor and Guillermo Rigondeaux, Rances Barthelemy, who previously defected unsuccessfully 38 times, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Erislandy Lara, and Yordenis Ugás.