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In Boxing-Crazy Cuba, Women Still Wait For Their Chance to Shine

When you think of the stature of Cuban boxing in the world, the apt comparison would be to the Himalyas. After all, Cubanos have fought at the highest level for more than a century and emerged as the most successful boxing nation of the world, winning 37 golds at the Olympics since 1904. That number swells to a staggering 76 when it comes to the World Championships.

Madhav Agarwal | News18 Sports

Updated:November 18, 2018, 9:10 PM IST
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In Boxing-Crazy Cuba, Women Still Wait For Their Chance to Shine
(Image: clubboxe.com)
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When you think of the stature of Cuban boxing in the world, the apt comparison would be to the Himalyas. After all, Cubanos have fought at the highest level for more than a century and emerged as the most successful boxing nation of the world, winning 37 golds at the Olympics since 1904. That number swells to a staggering 76 when it comes to the World Championships.

Pugilists like Teófilo Stevenson and Félix Sávon (two of only three boxers to capture 3 gold medals at Olympics) are just two names from the other hundreds that have come out of a meticulous boxing system that exists in the country.

One can say that boxing comes as a second nature to the Caribbean nation, where boys from all age groups spend their free time sparring with each other.

The image that first appears in mind when one thinks of Cuba, however wrong or stereotypical, is of carefree locals puffing cigars, with youngsters engaging in a bout of boxing at a local gym.

But the same cannot be said about the women boxers, who are prohibited from competing in the sport in Cuba.

It might come as surprise to even the most ardent fan of the sport that women in Cuba have never participated in any event ever; in fact, no Cuban women's team even exists.

While women's boxing was introduced at the Olympics in 2012, the Cuba Boxing Federation till now has yet to have become familiarised with the idea of women's boxing.

And although the reason for the ban is not clear to the locals as well, they too can't really picture women boxing in the ring.

Cuban coach Juan Fontanils, who is an assistant coach with the Thailand women's boxing team, throws light on the issue.

"We just don't have the culture for women's boxing, The ban is there in place which doesn't allow them to box, but that could be because women don't want to box. Also I think the federation needs more evidence that boxing doesn't harm the women in long run. It could be the mindset too that boxing is not for women. But I don't really know how it works with the government," Juan told News18 Sports at the AIBA Women's World Championship in New Delhi.

For a nation that has taken giant strides in contact sports like judo, taekwondo and wrestling, an omission from boxing is baffling. But for quite some time now, women boxers have been trying to make a mark and have received support from Olympics silver medalist Emilio Correa.

Namibia Flores, a boxer herself, has been championing the case of women pugilists in the country.

A file photo of Cuban boxer Namibia Flores. (Getty Images) A file photo of Cuban boxer Namibia Flores. (Getty Images)[/caption]

"Some of the most successful wrestlers and judokas in Cuba are women. So I think women will be as good in boxing too. But that would need a lot of work. I have heard that they are receiving support from Correa and some others. So let's just hope we'll have women representation in boxing," Juan added.

Juan, looking at the problem in hand, feels that there will be no resistance from the government once the mindset of the people changes. It's just that no one really gave a thought to women's boxing in general, with the men faring so well.

"I think it's just a matter of year or two before the ban is reversed. AIBA, who is constantly in a bid to spread the game further, must have some plans for Cuba too. And mind you, our women will be mighty good at it too."

Asked, as to how would the women fare if given a chance to participate in these world events, Juan said, "we'll be mighty good at it."

"You see, generally women here are pretty strong and have good footwork. Seeing the competition here, I feel they can bag medals too. They just need good training."

If the ban is eventually overturned, rest assured, with Cuba’s expertise of the sport and the dedication of its athletes, the world will see a new nation rule the roost.
| Edited by: Shayne Dias
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