Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Cuban regime has left mark on Irish boxers

Punch perfect: Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, Wayne McCullough with boxers Conor Martin (left) and Caoimhin Hynes at Holy Trinity ABC to announce the visit of the Cuban boxers

The Cubans are synonymous with gold medals in amateur boxing and the Irish have been smart enough to learn from the best.

Irish amateur boxing is currently enjoying it’s most successful period ever and top coach Michael Hawkins has no doubt that our young men have enjoyed the benefits of taking a leaf out of the golden book of Cuba.

Since 1972 Cuba has dominated the Olympic podium and on Wednesday it was confirmed they would be coming to Belfast for a training camp which will also feature Australia as well as other top countries.

Those who have stood head and shoulders above the rest are the likes of heavyweights Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon as well as bantam Guillermon Rigondeaux and for me the pick of the crop, Mario Kindelan.

Super Mario was the man who denied Amir Khan Olympic lightweight gold in 2004 and he was the star of the World Championships when staged at the Odyssey Arena in 2001.

There are simply too many to mention who have come through the Cuban regime in which honour is the byword.

Holy Trinity boss Hawkins said: “A few of the Irish coaches down through the years have experienced the way they do things in Cuba and we have learned from that.

“Boxing means everything over there, it’s all about pride and those doing well get treated very well. I remember the former Ulster president Eddie Thompson showing us a film from the 1972 World Championships in Havana and we just looked and wondered how on earth we could get our boys to live with these guys.

“Now we have our own High Performance set-up and like the Cuban system the guys are training like professionals, they’re getting well paid to stay amateur and it works.

“The High Performance in Dublin has proved to be the way forward and now we are reaping the benefits.

“To have the Cubans coming here is great.”

Belfast’s Olympic silver medallist Wayne McCullough, who had Cuban Nicholas Cruz in his corner, said: “Having had a Cuban trainer guide me through my Olympic journey and having met one in the final, I know that the Cubans are traditionally known as the best boxers in the world, so it’s an amazing achievement to welcome the world’s best boxing team, the Cuban Boxers, to train here.”

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