Cubans consider big jump
Cuban boxers could soon be fighting under professional rules for the first time in more than 50 years.
International Boxing Association president Ching-Kuo Wu has visited Cuba to discuss the cream of the country's fighters joining the professional-style World Series of Boxing and soon to be launched Pro Boxing.
"They are very serious about it," Wu said on Friday. "We have cleared the way for them and they are seriously considering joining, subject to final approval by the Cuban authorities."
Cuba could field a team in the World Series when the fourth season starts later this year, Wu said.
Cuba is the second most successful boxing nation at the Olympics after the United States, having won 34 gold medals.
However, the likes of late heavyweight Teofilo Stevenson, who won three golds, were never allowed to fight as professionals because of rules introduced by the country's former leader Fidel Castro in 1962.
Some boxers, such as Joel Casamayor, defected to the United States and turned professional, Wu believes the WSB and APB can now provide the perfect bridge between the amateur ranks and the professional game for Cuban fighters.
Previously, boxers who fought as professionals were barred from competing at the Olympics.
"They are very comfortable to join because it gives the boxers the ability to return to the Olympic Games," Wu said. "The WSB is a very important step forward for Cuba."
In the World Series Boxing, an international team event, boxers will compete for franchises such as the Mexico Guerreros, Argentina Condors, British Lionhearts and Ukraine Otamans.
Unlike in the amateur ranks, boxers won’t wear headguards or vests and will be paid.
Seven boxers from WSB teams won medals at last year's London Olympics. Among them are Ireland's lightweight John Joe Nevin, Italian heavyweight Clemente Russo and Ukraine's heavyweight gold medal winner Oleksandr Usyk.
Wu believes a team representing Cuba would help the growth of the competition. "Cuba is one of the strongest boxing countries in the world, with a great Olympic and world championships record," he said.
“To have them join the WSB and the APB would be a major step for us. To have the Cubans to join the programmes would be an historical moment.”
The AIBA will later this year launch the APB, a fully professional ten-weight individual competition that allows boxers to retain their Olympic eligibility.
More than 100 boxers will qualify for the Rio Olympics through the WSB and APB, compared to the five fighters who arrived in London by winning WSB weight divisions, Wu said.