Castro's defection fears, Cuba to skip boxing
worlds in Chicago
News. By Will Weissert.
HAVANA, 29 (AP) - Cuba won't send a boxing
team to the world championships in Chicago,
heeding Fidel Castro's fears about future
defections after two fighters abandoned
their teammates during the Pan American
The competition is one of three qualifying
tournaments for the 2008 Olympics.
"We will not expose anew a Cuban boxing
team to the abuses and provocations that
in this case will be present in Chicago,
American territory, the perfect location
for marketers and traffickers to act freely
and with the total complicity of U.S. authorities,"
the Cuban Boxing Federation said Wednesday.
But the federation insisted Cuba won't
forgo next year's Olympics, stating that
there will be "other opportunities
to win qualification for Beijing 2008."
"That's a right that all members of
the Cuban sports movement have and one we
will exercise at the appropriate moment,"
boxing officials said in a statement published
in official newspapers.
Guillermo Rigondeaux, Cuba's top boxer
and a two-time Olympic bantamweight champion,
and Erislandy Lara, an amateur welterweight
world champion, vanished for about two weeks
last month in Brazil, only to be arrested
The fighters say they never intended to
defect and asked to return to Cuba, but
a German promoter insists both signed five-year
contracts and officials at the German Embassy
in Brazil claim the pair sought visas.
The 81-year-old Castro has not been seen
in public since emergency intestinal surgery
forced him to cede power to his younger
brother 13 months ago.
But he proclaimed in an Aug. 7 essay that
Rigondeaux and Lara would never fight for
Cuba again, saying "the athlete who
abandons his delegation is not unlike the
soldier who abandons his fellow men in the
midst of combat."
Castro hinted the boxing federation would
pull out of the worlds, which begin Oct.
21 at the University of Chicago, saying
"just picture the mafia sharks lurking
about in search of fresh meat," referring
to would-be promoters who could try to persuade
Cuban fighters to desert.
"Cuba will not sacrifice one bit of
honour, nor any of its ideas, for Olympic
gold medals," Castro wrote.
The Cuban boxing federation said "many
factors" influenced its decision, but
Castro's defection worries carried the most
"The robbery of everything that stands
out in Cuban society, it doesn't matter
if it's an athlete, teacher, doctor, artist,
scientist or anything else, has been the
practice of different U.S. governments in
their permanent political aggression against
our people," its statement said.
In reaching its decision, the federation
wrote, it "profoundly analyzed the
threats of groups that with teams of negotiators
serve one of the most vile interests of
the United States and some of its allies,
the theft of athletes."
The federation also criticized the International
Amateur Boxing Association for failing to
stop promoters who lure fighters into deserting
during international tournaments, and looking
the other way in the face of "permanent
aggressions against Cuba and its athletics."