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Cuba opens door to professional boxing after decades-long hiatus

INTERNATIONAL: Cuba announced this week that its top fighters would join the professional boxing circuit following decades of shying away from the sport after former leader Fidel Castro banned sports for pay following his leftist 1959 revolution.

The "Domadores de Cuba" team will participate this year in several professional leagues after signing a contract with the Mexican company Golden Ring Promotions, state television reported on Monday (April 4).

The president of the Cuban Boxing Federation, Alberto Puig, said that several Cuban boxers will debut in a professional program in Mexico in May.

Puig said four Cubans had already signed their contracts for three years. During the first stage, a team of five to six boxers would participate.

Cuban sports officials said boxers would receive 80% of the compensation for winning fights, while 15% will go to trainers and 5% to their medical staff.

In a gym in Old Havana, boxers drenched in sweat celebrated the news while throwing punches.

"I think the migration of Cuban boxers is stopped with the Cuban team," trainer Alberto González told Reuters on Tuesday (April 5).

"The country's economic situation is dire and it is a way to help (the boxers') families financially," he said.

The "Domadores de Cuba" team had competed since 2014 in the World Series of Boxing (WSB), a semi-professional tournament where athletes box without head protectors. Cuba won three of the five events in which it participated until 2018.

Cuba has won 41 gold medals in amateur boxing at the Olympic Games since 1972, although several of its top tier boxers have defected in recent years to participate in professional events in the United States.

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