Rolando Acebal: Cuban boxing and its nautical chart in 2018

Guantanamo’s Rolando Acebal is a coach who knows where to direct the objectives of the Cuban boxing squad.

He talks about baseball and feels it like all Cubans passionate about sports. He keeps his deeply-rooted local accent and asserts that one of the keys for success of our boxing school lies in coordination, that grace or kind of dance that is in our genes and the way in which our boxers translate it into the ring.

He heads our squad since 2010, talks slowly, as if thoroughly thinking about every word and agreed to dialogue with CubaSi before the second match of the Cuba Domadores vs. the Uzbek Tigers, belonging to the C2 of the 8th World Series Boxing:

Do you intend to keep the first figures throughout the regular stage of the 8th Series? It’s something that has been questioned before…

“In these first matches we will present the winners of the last Playa Giron Tournament, except the +91 kg division, where Jose Angel Larduet returns, because Erislandy Savon returned to 91 kg. Then, on the road, we will go handling changes, in tune with the potentialities that we have in each category. The intention is to attend well prepared to win back the Series title.

“In the case of the Uzbeks, it is good to have them in the group. Their status as Rio de Janeiro Olympic champs, in addition to the fact that this country is one of the main powers in world boxing at present, contributes us rivalry and an important meter, even when they did not present in this first match their first men, except super heavyweight Jalalov.

“It is a team of remarkable quality and being at home always gave us the idea to go out to sweep, because despite starting the Series our boys are well prepared, resulting from a high-level Giron, especially in the semifinal and final bouts”.

The strategy with Julio Cesar la Cruz thinking of Barranquilla too?

“We must take into account several factors with Julio: the main thing is his health, we cannot take him to all competitions. We are talking about 12 years fighting in 81 kg, he has already reached his top performance, sports mastery and we cannot exhaust him. With that development controlling his weight too often becomes biologically complicated. That’s why; he fought in 91 kg at the Giron.

“In the important events he will fight in 81, with a strict planning, working time. In the decisive matches of the World Series he will fight in the same division, as well as in Barranquilla.

“That will be an event in which we will have to fight very accurately. Despite being Central American and Caribbean Games we cannot afford a margin of error. We will go out in pursuit of a great performance. There are countries with world-category individualities in the area. Julio Cesar himself lost once to Venezuelan Albert Ramirez. We always have a high commitment and are a regional benchmark in that competition”.

Are the +91 kg still the least solid division in our squad?

“At world-elite level, yes. We dominate in the area, but when we exchange fists with the best cards from Europe we have difficulties. We are working based on the strengthening of this division. It goes through attracting athletes from cadet categories with a physical somatotype close to the ideal thing in height-weight, in order to direct the efforts towards their technical development later. For example, now at the recently finished tournament in India, Yoandy Toirac lost in semis vs. Jalalov, issue that influenced Larduet’s designation.

“That is a substantial element. Our super heavyweights have many disadvantages in that extend with the best in the planet. And a Roberto Balado seldom comes out”.

Ahead of the following stage and for the sake of winning the title back, how do you see your pupils?

“We are more strengthened than in the previous season. Robeisy’s entry into the team again will surely contribute to put the seal. It’s no secret that in some divisions we need to stabilize performances. The more experienced athletes now”.

“We have hardly undergone changes in the team membership and motivations and willingness of both the technical staff and the boxers are very high. We do not sleep and are always waiting for any detail that undermines the integrity of the sportsman and affects the potentiality of the team”.

“We are always monitoring that continuity of the athlete’s life”.

It’s still soon, but what would be your forecast ahead of Barranquilla?

“Objectively, we have hardnoses of the stature of Colombian Yubergen Martinez (49 kg), Olympic runner-up, who has beaten our first figure Jhoannys Argilagos twice. Venezuela has Finol (52), bronze medallist in Rio de Janeiro 2016. Also included is Dominican Dos Santos, a 56 kg-boxer with many resources. In spite of that, we have planned to pick up no less than 8 golds”.

Always with the bar very high. A lightning fist exchange in which tied: Acebal with his calmness, while I was moving fast and striking him with jabs of questions. The verdict: an unquestionable draw and search for constant success for our flagship.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

  • Published in Specials

Andy Cruz: Fists Swinging again at the Glory in 2018

He carries on his fists the challenge of keeping the undefeated condition he achieved last year in this 2018. That condition that won him the distinction of best rookie of the year in Cuban sports (he made his debut as first boxer in the 64 kg), after winning undefeated the championship of Hamburg, the same happened in the World Championship… finishing a whole year with 18 international matches impeccably.

He also won the domestic championship Playa Giron and with the detail of winning all the rounds in all his fights. This yield on the boxing pit won him the lead in his division at the world ranking sponsored by AIBA, with 1 700 points way ahead of the Uzbeks Ikboljon Kholdarov and Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (both with 1 300), and the German Artem Harutyunyan (1 200), following in that order.

Born on August 12th, 1995 in Alacranes town, of Union de Reyes municipality in Matanzas, 1.68 meters height Andy is considered today one of the best pugilists pound by pound of amateur boxing worldwide. From my point of view, our island’s best, after inheriting with fame, the position in the team left by Yasnier Toledo.

Champion of the Pan-American Games of Toronto 2015 in 56 kg, many will remember his very skinny build back then, one of the main boxers of Los Domadores of Cuba and pupil of Emiliano Chirino, he agreed to talk with Cubasí:

What left year 2017 in the personal field for you?

"The results are the best reflection of a very good year. I had to work a lot because as everyone knows I shifted divisions and that implied adaptation in the first place to the weight. Redirecting my efforts toward growing strong, especially the punching.

Luckily everything went better than I had planned. It was very important to become World Champion, to gain experiences and fighting high-rank boxers. Boxing is a sport of constant learning, with each match, each rival."

Domain of distances, speed, precise punching, dodging, and good displacements… Where do you believe your virtues come together?

"I mainly bet for the mid and outside distance. My extremities and being a bit taller than the remaining elite men in my division, allow me so. I am not afraid of any distance and always try to take the fights in relationship with the demands of the opponent. The jab is one of my main resources, although I usually combine it with uppers and swings searching for effective combinations".

What exercises do you prioritize during training sessions and the best sparring in La Finca?

"Running and the jumping rope are among my favorite exercises. In these moments I concentrate on elevating the strength, mainly in punching, because there is a huge difference regarding the 56 kg division. In the 64 kg division the punches land harder. I always think the sparring with Julio Cesar La Cruz, Lázaro Álvarez and Roniel Iglesias are quite profitable for me. Each one has its peculiar fighting style, I take advantage of that and they make me a more complete boxer.

Many people think that I have style similar to that of Julio and somehow it’s true: I like dodging and not getting punched when I enter to punch. I partly do it for my mother who is my number one fan and sometimes she doesn’t watch my fights because she doesn't like that I get punched, and the stress that causes her".

What elements would you like to improve for future matches and looking at the distant Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020?

“There are always things to improve. Quality in the punching, I study opponents… talent without prior preparation is not good at all. That’s why I thank my coaches for being pending of every detail. My results are those of the Cuban school of boxing, their prestige. I never underestimate any opponent. Every single one of them comes into the ring to win and a single blow can sometimes decide a tournament, or even your career. That’s why I follow to the letter the most minimum hint. As for taking on any competition I never slack in the trainings."

Always a boxer?

"When I was very little I began practicing karate, since I was 10 years old I began in boxing. I was a brawler and trainer (Gustavo Delgado) opened a path for me in boxing trying to scratch that itch a bit".

Quite promissory future and without severe lesions so far. Any keys?

"Give everything in the training, the work-rest relationship, mainly for us who can have up to four daily sessions sometimes. I take good care of my body, for that reason I haven’t had any severe lesion so far. That’s a way to be ready for any event."

In fact, Andy Cruz shows in world competitions a perfect sheet 11-0, if you are reading this he has probable made his debut against the Heroic of Colombia, as part of the C-1 pool that began the eighth season at the Sports City Coliseum.

Besides he will have his eyes on the Central American and the Caribbean Games of Barranquilla, because certainly, his golden career will grow from now on, after his winning in Toronto.

Let’s just witness on the ring what he gives to his mother Vivian Gómez, his father Ramón Cruz, and to the entire Cuban people. I personally join those who think: he is the best Cuban boxer pound by pound at present. If anyone is in doubt, go ask the Uzbek Kholdarov, his victim in the final match of Hamburg, and also in the World Championship of Boxing (2017).

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

  • Published in Sports

Kenya land invite: National boxing team set to train in Cuba ahead of Commonwealth Games in April

The national boxing team ‘Hit Squad’ has been invited to participate in a Four Nations training-cum-tournament camp in Cuba ahead of the April’s Commonwealth Games slated for Gold Coast Australia.

Boxing Association of Kenya (BAK) chairman, John Kameta, said the deal for the Four Nations event was realised during the AIBA Congress in Dubai, where he held extensive talks with officials from the Cuban Federation.

“Depending on availability of funds, the Hit Squad shall be traveling to Cuba to join the hosts United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Ethiopia. We are discussing with the government on this issue and we hope all will be well. We also want to establish what the hosts will offer on the event so we can firm up everything,” said Kameta.

The national boxing team, which returned from India Open International Championship last Sunday, has been joined by their sparring partners at Police Depot in Mathare Nairobi where they are shaping up under coach Patrick Maina of Prisons. All the losing finalists AT the Kaloleni trials are in the team as non travelling sparring partners.

Kameta said the final team of seven men and four women will be named just before departure to Gold Coast to avoid over confidence by boxers who may be selected.

“We are back at Mathare, where the boxers have been training prior to India event. The one thing with Mathare depot is that its home to Police training base where we will enjoy good teamwork,” Kameta said. Kenya failed to win medals at the India event but Kameta reiterated it was good practice for the boxers ahead of Gold Coast.

The Kenya team is scheduled to begin their final phase of preparations at Madison Square Garden, Nakuru, which is synonymous with Kenya’s world beaters among them Philip Waruinge, who is one of the greatest boxers to have represented the Hit Squad.

Provisional squad for Commonwealth Games—Light fly: Shaffi Bakari (Police), Matayo Keya (KNH); Fly: Mohammed Ali (Kongowea), Simon Mulinge (KDF); Bantam: Benson Gicharu, Isaac Meja (KDF); Light: Nick Okoth (KDF), Ethan Maina (Police); Middleweight: Edwin Okongo (KDF), Erick Otengo (Prisons); Light welter: Victor Onyango (KDF), Joseph Shigali (Police); Welter: Jacob Kimathi (Prison), Boniface Mugunde (Police); Middle: Edwin Okongo (KDF), Erick Otengo (Prisons); Light heavy: Nick Abaka (KDF), Peter Abuti (Prison); Heavyweight: Elly Ajowi, Frederick Onyango (KDF); Super-heavy: David Njuguna (Police), Fredrick Ramogi (KDF); Women: Fly: Christine Ongare (Nairobi), Veronica Mbithi (Dallas); Light Welter: Lornah Kusa (NRB) and Ruth Odongo (Kisumu).

  • Published in Sports

Boxing: Once Again the Everlasting Spark of Cuban Sports


Boxing, with five gold medals and two more in the World Championship of Hamburg, ran off as the best individual Cuban sport in 2017. Julio Cesar La Cruz commanded the team with his fourth medals in a row.


He makes his way with his fists. That has been an unquestionable foreign principle of Cuban boxing since the 70’s of the last century, when Orlando Martínez (48 kg), Emilio Correa (67) and Teófilo Stevenson (+81) had a golden debut in the Olympic Games on September 10th, 1972 in Munich.


Up until today our boxing school has established a universal feud, challenging the rest of the powers in boxing. Only in the Olympic Games we add 37 golden, 19 silver and 17 bronze medals, while in world championships, the score soars up to (76-34-25).

The Cuban team kept this year in Hamburg (five golden and two silver medals) the hegemony reclaimed in Doha, Qatar 2015. Those, in fact, were the only golden medals of our sport movement in World Championships of 2017, together with equal amount of silver and bronze medals.


Running a preliminary analysis is more than fair that our boxing team had achieved the position as best individual sport, as well as the Domadores had deserved the distinction among the teams.


The Domadores team was runner-up on the VII World Championship. I personally still have a bitter taste as for the yield they showed. I remember waking up at 5:00 a.m. like thousands of other Cubans to enjoy the final match day. We were almost caressing victory, after the smashing start, but it faded little by little, until the team broke down on the second half of the tournament.


Anyway as consolation remains the fact of being the most winning team in the competition, winning 43 out of 61 fights.


On top of that another solid argument is that we have located five of our boxers in the first or second position in the AIBA World Ranking, other two are third and one of them is fourth on a total of ten divisions existing at present. Likewise, to this side of the Atlantic, they made it clear who’s in charge, with eight gold medals in the continental competition, besides two runner-up positions.


Any other country of the world with similar successful record in boxing would be brimming with joy. In our case, although we end the year on the ring with Playa de Girón Tournament and great satisfaction, the role of everlasting spark role of boxing always raises a notch. The always demanding boxing fans are at times unaware of all the efforts and variables that must come together to win medals on the elite.


The “crossroad” of Two Hellish Cruz


Julio Cesar la Cruz, and Andy Cruz. Just mentioning these two names now inspires respect and care in any rival. From the corner, even when they don't show it, the coaches of the opponents are almost sure their pupils will enter a lost battle against the “Cruzifiers” from Cuba.


Julio Cesar won the fourth gold medal in world championships in a row. Very few boxers in history have accomplished such deed. With a style that has won the nickname of “The shadow”, for his cat-like speed to get close, punch and avoid the blows of his rivals, dancing on the ring, waving his torso, La Cruz had a terrific year winning 12 out of his 13 combats.


By the way, in the final match in Hamburg, as mimicking what happened in Qatar in 2015, he bent the knees of the Irish Joe Ward again.


Although his fighting style still doesn’t convince some fans, there’s no doubt he has an elevated degree of effectiveness. Actually winning his fourth medal in a row won him the best individual sportsman of the year.


Andy Cruz, is assessed as one of the best boxers pound by pound today, I totally agree. Chosen as the most outstanding boxer in the World Championship of Hamburg, the boy from Matanzas won over the 18 opponents he faced in 2017, six of them in an impeccable way in the VII World Championship of Boxing.


To his first world medal he added the Pan-American title, therefore he appears on the second position of the world ranking in the 64 kg. That is why he has been chosen as Rookie of the year, when he wore the Cuban color he had already won the gold medal in 56 kg in the Pan-American of Toronto.


If not for the fourth medal of La Cruz, to me Andy would have won the condition as best individual athlete of the year. Just watching each of his matches regardless the opponent to certify that we are witnessing one of those boxers that exhibit the so-called total boxing: good domain of distances, effectiveness with his punches, either jab, swing, uppercut… speed, excellent defense and dodging.


It’s a feast to the eye when he is boxing, besides the sensation of victory almost 100% he inspires. I recall Stevenson, Ariel Hernández, Héctor Vinent, Mario Kindelán, Guillermo Rigondeaux, and other historical boxers along four decades of splendor.


Undoubtedly a pleasant crossroad where these two boxers are taking us. No wonder five out of the best ten athletes this year belong to this sport. They are Jhoannys Argilagos (49 kg), Yosbany Veitía (52), Lázaro Álvarez (60), Roniel Iglesias (69) and Erislandy Savón.


I’d like to finish with statistical fact from the World Championship of Hamburg: ours boxers won in 27 fights and only lost four. That without taking a representative in the + 91 kg. We must conclude that we are strong with these credentials.

  • Published in Specials

Amateur boxing chief suspended as insolvency fears rise

Wu Ching-kuo, president of the Amateur International Boxing Association (Aiba), has been temporarily suspended in an ongoing power struggle.

Wu, who has been in charge of Aiba for 11 years, was accused of financial mismanagement.

According to the Times of India, Aiba’s disciplinary commission made the move on Monday, but revealed the news a day after.

"Wu was found to be in violation of a number of the boxing association's statutes and disciplinary codes," said the commission in a statement.

Power struggle

According to a report published by The Guardian last month, Wu’s deposers accused him of "financial mismanagement" and "collecting substantial funds from Aiba for personal use in his Taipei office".

This summer, members of the organisation’s executive committee, who proclaimed themselves as Aiba’s interim management committee (IMC), passed a vote of no confidence against Wu.

Attempts to oust him continued in the Swiss courts, a movement that Wu described as "unlawful."

In order to maintain his reign, the 70-year-old Taiwanese needs the support of the majority of the federations in an extraordinary congress in Dubai set for November.

However, several federations, including the US, Cuba, Russia and Kazakhstan support Aiba’s IMC in their fight against Wu.

The Guardian also published a fragment of a letter from the president of the French Boxing Federation, André Martin.

"I am deeply convinced that the IMC are able to put our beloved organization back on track," it read. "You can count on my unconditional support and the support of the French Boxing Federation."

Meanwhile, the Board of Boxing Australia said it "views with great concern the current poor financial position which Aiba appears to be in, and the apparent role played by president CK Wu in precipitating that poor position."

Deep crisis

According to Aiba’s disciplinary commission, the Association is £11.6 million in debt "without any management or commercial reason."

Aiba’s reputation has also been tarnished by a series of bad decisions that spoiled last year’s boxing competition at the Rio Olympics.

One of the most notable incidents was the clearly fraudulent verdict in the defeat of Irish bantamweight boxer Michael Conlan against Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin.

Despite corruption allegations, Wu has always denied any wrongdoing.

He is expected to appeal against today's ruling.

  • Published in Sports

WSB final match: Necessary evil

Our editorial staff has received several phone calls and emails, with regard to the celebration of the final match of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) in Kazakhstan.

In general, local fans outraged because of the unfulfillment of what was agreed at the technical meeting regarding the celebration of home-and-away match to dispute the crown.

Aimed at clarifying doubts, I went to the Cuban Federation of this sport, and its president, Alberto Puig, confirmed that its initial state was the same. As an executive member of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), he stated his disagreement with the measure, but weighed up the pros and cons and preferred not to deprive our boxers from disputing the crown there, even under adverse conditions.

Cubans also rejected the fact that the official website of the event had published that the final would be there, even when the conditions were still being negotiated, so it was understood as a measure of pressure.

Of course, since it was not Cuba’s responsibility, our authorities demanded that the organizers cover the travel and subsistence expenses of the whole Cuban delegation (18 people) for a week, in which the members of the Domadores, including the figure in charge of deciding a likely tie, would benefit with a training base on Kazakh soil.

Moreover, and most importantly, he demanded in a clear tone that organizers have to provide total guarantees so all votes reflect what happened on the ring. Puig told me he wants to avoid at all costs an incident similar to the World Cup Houston-1999, because that would affect the image of IABA significantly, but he did not rule out withdrawing the squad if authentic deprivations take place at the Astana Sports Palace.

Finally, he explained that the line-up of the Domadores for the crucial clash would be released hours before departing to Kazakhstan, that is, at the end of next week.

From all this, you can gather once again that the Cuban Federation has acted with full transparency, and that the lack of seriousness does not fall over the Domadores, who will fight with all their strength to regain the crown they won last year.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

World Boxing after Gender Equality

A few days ago, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made public that boxing in the Olympic Games Tokío-2020 will grant 13 medals, just as its two previous editions, but this time only eight for men, and five among women.

After gender equality, boxing joins the rest of summer sports, where the participation of women equals that of men, to eliminate all the differences seen throughout history.

In this regard, the number of women categories will reach five now, although the weights in which they will participate aren’t decided yet, neither those to be eliminated among men.

Personally I support women boxing, but I don’t think the formula to do so is the right one. I find it fairer, and just equitable that instead of reducing the number of categories for men boxers, it decreases the number of boxers by weight.

Therefore allowing all boxers the chance to reach the Olympics. It’s true it’d be more difficult to win a place for the Games, but the opportunity it’s there, while the other way leaves out a large number of good boxers.

IOC’s main concern is to achieve the gender equality without damaging the number of contestants, hence the costs for organizers, but with this second variant which Cuban boxing authorities want to present at the AIBA Congress, and it would improve quality, because in the preliminary rounds many mismatched combats take place.

If this variant does not succeed, which according to experts, women will have two more medals in their goals and men two less. Hence it’s more than necessary to promote the practice of boxing among women worldwide.

What is Cuba doing about it? Well practically nothing, is still being "studied" the participation of women.

La Cruz, the doctor of boxing

The nickname suits him down to the ground, because few like him are so talkative, as much with the press, the executives or the general public. Julio César La Cruz is a danger on the ring…

But outside the ring he has that cheerful temper, which distinguishes kind-hearted people.

It was one of the characteristics that led him to become not only the captain of the Cuban boxing squad, but also the Captain of captains of El Cerro Pelado, the most important High Performance center in Cuba, with influence over the rest of the leaders in the different sports.

Often, when we meet each other there comes out his knowledge on the sports world, beyond the art of fists, and I would like to share that aspect with CubaSi’s readers:

Today, I want to talk about other topics, but let’s start with boxing, how do you see yourself and the team for the final stages of the World Series?

"In my case, I could win my first bout, which is weigh-in. The leader pulls his teammates, and that’s my mission; should I am focused they’re too, because we achieve all aims united. All bouts are difficult, and although they finish 3-2, it’s a victory; so it is in all sports, even 1-0 is a victory, and that’s the main thing."

What do you think about Victor Mesa’s appointment as manager of Industriales?

"Víctor Mesa is a great strategist. In my opinion he is among the best in Cuba. He hasn’t crowned himself champion, but Messi is considered the best too and he hasn’t won a World Cup. This is going to be a very good opportunity for him, I am sure he’ll give a good show, together with other new managers, such as Orestes Kindelán, Pedro Luis Lazo, etc."

I have seen you as fan in other sport shows, what other sports do you like?

"I get on well with sports in general; my thing is to make sport win. Generally speaking, we have a complex task, the Central American Games in Colombia, where we must give our best in the work day by day, and perseverance will lead us to victory and thus to keep the first place overall.

Why are you a fan of Pinar del Río?

"Since I used to play baseball in my childhood, my idols were Omar Linares, Faustino Corrales and others from Pinar, and I always followed them. Personally, I am a friend of Donald Duarte, and when I arrive in Pinar del Río, I am treated like a Pinar del Rio local, as if I were Roniel Iglesias or Lázaro Álvarez".

But, what about Camagüey?

"Watch out for the “Bulls” from Camagüey, who have a good young pitching, and a captain focused on his task. Now, with the opportunity given to him to play abroad, Alexander Ayala is going to lead them to victory. They qualified for the tournament last year and this time their performance will be better".

This is Julio, also self-confessed fan of Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo, a faithful sports lover. When he is not on the ring, one can see him like any other fan in the crowd, cheering for Pinar del Rio or Camagüey, either in baseball or basketball.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff


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