HAVANA TIMES — After five decades of prohibiting its boxers from going professional the Cuban government has done an about face and will allow boxers to participate in an international semi-professional league dubbed the World Series of Boxing (WSB).
The announcement came Friday from the president of the Cuban Boxing Federation, Alberto Puig. According to AP they will fight without headgear and earn between US $1,000 and $3,000 a month.
Twelve boxing squads will compete in the league from November 15, 2013 to May 2014. Others already announced are Argentina, Mexico, USA, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Poland, Algeria and Germany.
”We are extremely pleased to welcome Cuba to the World Series of Boxing,” AIBA President C.K. Wu said in a statement. ”With a total of 116 World medals and 67 Olympic ones, Cuban boxers have always lived at the pinnacle of our sport. … We are convinced that this new franchise will bring WSB to an even higher level,” reported AP.
The Cuban boxing authorities did not announce how much the Cuban fighters would get paid individually and how much would go to the government. Currently they are paid around $20 a month, an average salary for Cuban workers. Those winning medals at major international amatuer competitions, like the Olympics, receive undisclosed bonuses.
Former President Fidel Castro had ruled out professional sports as not being in tune with the country’s Marxist social ideals. In recent years a small number of Cuban baseball players near retirement age have been allowed to play on contracts in foreign professional leagues.
Those favoring the opening to professional sports believe it will allow Cuban athletes to face stiffer competition and be better prepared to represent the island in international events.