Just How Good Are The Cuban Amateurs? - Boxing
By Ken Hissner, DoghouseBoxing (Oct 29, 2008) DoghouseBoxing.com  
The Cuban amateurs have had a long standing reputation as the best in amateur boxing. Even when compared to the professionals of his time the 3 time gold medalist Teofilo Stevenson was mentioned as one of the best from 1972 to 1980. Let’s take a look at some of their many accomplishments.

When the dictator Fidel Castro announced in 1962 there would be no more professional sports in Cuba there was a big push behind amateur boxing. In 1968 the country of Cuba won their first ever medals
in boxing at the Olympics of Mexico City when Enrique Requeiferos and Rolando Garbey took silver. In 1972 Orlando Martinez, Emilio Correa and Stevenson won gold medals. In watching Correra get the win over the US Air Force welterweight Jesse Valdez, I thought it was highly disputed.

The most gold was in 1992 winning 8 of the10 championship medals. They had 10 in their “previous” Olympics in 1980 when the US did not participate. The Cubans skipped 1984 and 1988. They have won 32 gold, 19 silver and 11 bronze medals in the last 40 years. In 2008 it was the first time since 1972 they did not win a gold medal. They won 4 silver and 4 bronze. Any other country would have been happy with that, but not Castro. He accused the officials of favoring the other nations.

They have had 2 triple and 6 dual champions with the most famous being Stevenson winning the 1972-76-80 Olympic gold medals in the heavyweight division. Another was Felix Savon winning gold in the same division in 1992-96-2000. Dual medal winners were Rolando Garbey winning silver in 68 and bronze in 76; Juan Hernandez-Sierra winning silver in 1992 and 96; while Andres Adamer won silver in 1976 and gold in 80. Other dual gold winners were Angel Herrera in 1976 and 80; Hector Vinent 1992 and 96, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Mario Kindelan in 2000 and 04.

Currently only 4 medal winners have turned professional and all are active today. The most famous is former WBA Super Featherweight and WBC Lightweight champion Joel Casamayor, 36-4-1 (22), from the 1992 team and a gold medal winner. He along with Yuriorkis Gamboa, 12-0 (10) and Yan Bhartelemy, 6-1 (0) both from the 2004 team, fight out of Miami, Florida. Gamboa had his debut in Germany and his 2nd bout in Turkey while Bhartelemy debuted in Germany and had his 2nd bout in Turkey and the following 4 bouts in Germany before come to the US.

The other team member from the 2004 team is heavyweight Odlanier Solis, 12-0 (8) who debuted in Germany, a 2nd bout in Turkey and 8 more in Germany while 1 more in Turkey and 1 in Italy. Solis has not been able to obtain a visa for the US but is still trying.

One father and son won medals. As mentioned earlier in 1972 Emilio Correra won gold while his son, Emilio, Jr., in 2008 would take home a silver medal. The 2008 team lost the before mentioned Solis, Gamboa, Bhartelemy and Erislandy Lara, 2-0 (1) who is now with Golden Boy in California. He was team captain in July at Germany. In addition, Ismaikel “Mike” Perez, fighting out of Ireland, 6-0 (5) was to be another member. That is a possible 8 of the 11 original members had to be replaced. Perez, Luis Garcia, 1-0 (1) and Alexei Acosta, 2-0 (2), are 3 former World Junior Champions who spurned a place at the Beijing Olympics in order to concentrate on success in the pro ranks and bringing world titles to their newly adopted home city of Cork, Ireland.

One of the two gold boxers, Mario Kindelan had defeated Amir Kahn, now a top British lightweight, in the finals of 2004. They had a rematch in May of 2005 in the United Kingdom and Kahn won the decision.

Savon, the 3 time Olympic Gold medalist had a 362-21 record winning World titles in 1986, 89, 91, 93, 95 and 97. He was also Pan American champion in 1987, 91 and 95. He defeated Darnell Nicholson, Michael Bennett, David Izon, George Kandelaki, David Defiagbon, Sebastian Kober, and former WBO heavyweight champion Sultan Ibragimov.

Solis, the 2004 Gold medalist had a 227-14 record defeating Savon 2 out of 3 times. He was Pan American champion in 1999 and 2003. In winning the World title he defeated Sultan Ibragimov and stopped Dave Haye, former Cruiserweight WBC/WBO champion.

Stevenson had a 302-22 record winning World titles in 1974, 78 and 86. He also won Pan American titles in 1975 and 1979. He stopped Duane Bobick in a rematch after losing to Bobick in the Pan American 1971 games. He defeated him in 1972 Olympics and also stopped future world champion John Tate in the 1976 Olympics.

What does the future hold for Cuba? Two time gold medalist Rigondeaux and Lara disappeared when the team was at the Pan American games. They were arrested in Brazil and returned to Cuba. Rigondeaux will never box again, while Lara was able to escape from Cuba a second time. Castro had blamed American money for their desertions, saying they were “knocked down with a blow straight to the chin, paid up with U.S. bills.” He always blames America no matter where the fighters end up. Cuba did not participate in the 2007 World Boxing Championships because they were held in Chicago. They will probably never appear again in the US due to fear of losing their boxers. Only when Communism is gone from the island of Cuba will the boxers excel in both amateur and professional boxing!

Ken at: kenhissner@yahoo.com

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