By Ronal Quiñones
HAVANA TIMES – Many famous sports figures in Cuba have left the island in recent months. Regardless of the fact that Olympic champions receive an important economic bonus, canoeist Fernando Dayan Jorge, the new reigning champion at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and boxer Ismael Borrero, who won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, decided to leave the country.
Juan Miguel Echevarria, who won the silver medal at the Japanese Olympics, and is considered the most promising long jump champion in the world, also left. Maybe none of them were happy with the fact that they used to earn 300 CUC, which used to be worth more than the USD in Cuba, and now they are only being paid 7200 Cuban pesos at the official exchange rate, which is now the equivalent of 70 USD in purchasing power. The difference is crystal clear.
Well anyway, they are all in different lands now, and even though some of them have left the world of professional sports, they have plans to bring to life and they don’t have to answer to anyone about what they’re doing or make propaganda.
Word has it (and we will only be able to confirm this when Andy is 100% free to speak) that it was the team captain, Julio Cesar La Cruz, who tipped off the authorities that his colleague was thinking about leaving the country at the event when Cubans were just making a comeback to professional boxing after 60 years.
That poster with the line-up in Mexico in May didn’t feature the man quick on his toes, who was taken off the list of participants just days before the match.
The sale of his private car stirred suspicions, which makes sense because having a car in Cuba is a luxury that nobody lets go of unless they are in a really tough financial situation (which wasn’t the case) or because they are thinking of leaving the country. According to La Cruz himself, who later communicated to his superiors that his colleague wanted to buy a better car, not leave the country, but even if this is the truth it put a target on the Matanzas-born boxer’s back.
His appearance in the music video “Pesteman” didn’t help, which was apparently dedicated to La Cruz.
Then there was a clumsy publicity stunt where Andy appears with body language that makes it clear he doesn’t agree with what he’s saying, saying that he doesn’t have a problem with La Cruz, and that he hoped to join the Domadores (the Cuban national team) again.
However, the National Championships came around and his name wasn’t on the participants list. That’s when everyone realized that something more serious was going on, and it wasn’t exactly a good thing.
A few days later, the press in other countries began to say that the two-time Olympic champion in the 64 kg category was in the Dominican Republic, or an unknown location according to the source, but outside of Cuba in any case.
While I believe the people who published this piece of news had the best of intentions, with the entire repressive apparatus on high alert it was the signal they needed to locate Andy, wherever he was, and it was the boxer’s misfortune to still be on Cuban soil.
An official statement made at the end of last month spoke about his intention to leave the island, that the two-time world champion was in a prison in Cuba’s Oriente province, and that corresponding measures would be taken later.
This week, another statement was made, which officially removed Andy from Cuban sports, as was to be expected, which is a gravestone for his career and a heavy burden on his hopes of living elsewhere. In fact, he doesn’t have the right to apply for a passport, so his only option for leaving now is illegally, like so many have done before him.
The name Yordenis Ugas immediately springs to mind, a champion in professional sports, who suffered the same thing – although he didn’t get as much media attention -, when he tried to leave by unconventional means, a decade ago.
Ugas lost a few years of his career, and this is what seems to be waiting for Andy, who had a much more promising future than Ugas, who became famous after beating the legend that is Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines, last year.
Without a passport, “breaking the law” is his only choice, and the Matanzas-born boxer must be one of the most watched persons in Cuba. His reputation is too powerful to allow him to escape the island and be able to vent his personal and sport-related frustrations in another country.
If there was a way to ask for international solidarity, he’d ask for it, but I know this won’t work in his case. So, those of us who admire him can only wish the ruling elite take their eyes off him in the meantime, and that he is able to leave for good, so he can take full advantage of the years he has left in this sport, which are still a good few and could be very successful.
Global boxing deserves to see the splendor of this young man who is only 26 years old, who danced in the ring after every fight, and during, because there were very few rivals worthy of his amazing talent.
Like Ugas himself told on social media, patience is needed, because he’ll get what he wants sooner or later, it’s just unfortunate that he might lose so much time in the process.