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Cubans to box as pros for first time in 50 years

Jun 20, 2013, 9:06 AM EDT

AP Photo/Ng Han Guan AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

After being banned from turning pro by their country for more than fifty years, ten Cuban boxers are set to break the barrier for their nation when they compete at a special AIBA World Series of Boxing event this August in Mexico City.

“Cuba is one of the best – if not the best – boxing country in the world,” World Series of Boxing CEO Karim Bouzidi told Inside the Games Wednesday. “Seeing them competing for the very first time in a pro-style format will surely send shockwaves throughout the entire boxing world.”

The ten bouts between the Cubans and a team of Mexican fighters will take place August 30 and 31, and will be set at five three-minute rounds with no vest or headgear. AIBA President CK Wu plans to be on hand for the event and Cuban Boxing Federation President Alberto Puig de la Barca has promised to send only his best boxers, including Olympic and World Champions.

Pro boxing was outlawed for Cubans by Fidel Castro back in 1962, because he deemed it corrupt and corrupting, and other Cuban officials deemed it too dangerous. But the ban was officially lifted in April and Cuba then signed up for the fourth World Series of Boxing season, starting in November.

Providing young Cubans a platform to compete as professionals flies in the face of recent protests against the AIBA’s decision to allow pros on their circuit with fewer than fifteen bouts to compete at the Olympics, because it gives the boxers a chance to earn prize money and salaries early in their careers without being quickly lured away by promoters and trainers. Cuba has won 67 medals at the Olympics, including golds in the men’s light welterweight and flyweight divisions last summer in London.

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