Published: Tuesday February 5, 2013 MYT 1:47:00 PM
Boxing chief: Cuba close to historic decision
PARIS: Amateur boxing supremo Dr Ching-Kuo Wu told AFP he is confident that Cuba are about to make an historic decision and agree to field a team in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) which would see them given the chance to earn money.
Earning money from sport has been previously strictly forbidden because the government and the sports authorities believe it to be contrary to their Communist ideology.
The 65-year-old Taiwanese - who was elected as president of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) in 2006 - said he had held very positive talks with Cuban boxing authorities and more importantly the country's sports authority last week in Cuba.
Cuba prides itself on its sporting prowess especially when it comes to baseball and boxing, with the latter producing some of the legends of the amateur version including the late Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon, both of whom won three Olympic gold medals.
However, since 1962 Cuba imposed a ban on sports stars playing or fighting for money abroad leaving them to earn fame solely in the Olympics or the world championships.
Wu, though, believes having been to Cuba and explained the details of the WSB - which is made up of 12 franchises from as as far afield as Algeria to Argentina - the way is clear for them to enter a team for the start of the fourth edition beginning in November.
He is also enthusiastic about the prospects of them entering boxers in the AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) - due to be launched in autumn this year - which provides amateurs with a professional career on a three year contract - where they can win purse money - after an Olympics and yet still be able to compete in future Games.
"I think the only thing to come is the final decision from the Cuban sports authorities," he told AFP in a telephone interview.
"I met with them and it looked like they fully understood the details about the WSB and were very positive.
"This was my third trip to Cuba but the first where I openly discussed the issue and it allowed them to raise questions and their doubts and for me to clarify them which I did. It was very fruitful.
"I am confident they will come in because the main purpose of the WSB and the APB is to protect the boxer's career.
"Before it was a case of - where do the boxers go - because in Cuba they have so many boxers, many of them young, who have to battle past the generation above them of champions.
"Then it was only a possibility of competing in the Olympics and the world championships.
"Now there are with the WSB and the APB other options without losing one's amateur status and with it the possibility of competing at the Olympics.
"We have extended the career age limit to 40. Now our boxers can compete from the age of 19 to 40. Everything is very clear to the Cubans and they like it."
Wu, who has introduced a whole range of reforms and innovations since being elected with his introduction of women's boxing to the Olympics last year perceived as a huge success, said the Cubans entry would be mutually beneficial.
"I would say it would be very important the Cubans competing," said Wu, an architect by profession.
"For the Cubans have a great history in amateur boxing with so many medals. Thus for the Cubans and the tournaments them being involved would be very important."
Wu, a former basketball player himself, said that he had no concerns that the Cubans would not be able to adapt from the amateur bouts of three rounds to the five rounds in the WSB and the 10-12 rounds of the APB.
"We just finished a coaches workshop in Italy which included five top Cuban coaches and they said that in any case in training their boxers do more than three rounds," he said. -AFP