Monday, October 29, 2007

Cuban defectors prepare for U.S. boxing debuts

Cuban defectors prepare for U.S. boxing debuts
Posted on Mon, Oct. 29, 2007
The Associated Press

Cuban defector Yuriorkis Gamboa fought less than two weeks ago and is
again ready to enter the ring, motivated by the chance to make his U.S.
boxing debut.

Gamboa and former Cuban teammate Yan Barthelemy will fight in the United
States for the first time Tuesday night.

"Thank God we finally have the chance to fight in the United States,"
Gamboa said. "Many of my Cuban friends and compatriots have been waiting
for our debuts here."

Gamboa, Barthelemy and heavyweight Odlanier Solis, the third defector in
the group, signed professional contracts with a German promoter soon
after leaving the Cuban team during a stop in Venezuela in December. All
were expected to defend their 2004 Olympic gold medals next year.

The three boxers have been fighting primarily in Europe and living in
Germany. Gamboa, a featherweight, is 6-0 with five knockouts and fought
as recently as Oct. 19, when he stopped Samuel Kebede in two rounds.

Gamboa will face Brazil's Adailton De Jesus on Tuesday.

"It's not the same fighting in Europe as it will be here," Gamboa said.
"There will be a higher level of motivation because of the support we
are expected to have from the crowd."

Barthelemy, a super-bantamweight, moved to Miami last month after two
professional victories overseas. His first U.S. bout will be against
Kevin Hudgins of Pensacola, Fla.

"The United States is the Mecca of boxing, and sooner or later we were
going to fight here," Barthelemy said. "If you cannot succeed here, you
are not going to make an impact in boxing."

Although Gamboa and Barthelemy respond in Spanish, their preferences for
the United States is evident by a sprinkling of English words in their

"I never could get used to living in Germany," Barthelemy said. "The
cold climate was tough to accept. I didn't learn one phrase in German."

Barthelemy and Gamboa, both 25, acknowledge the hardships of leaving
their country.

For Gamboa, separation from family was lessened when his wife and infant
daughter arrived in the United States in May. But Barthelemy's relatives
remain in Cuba.

"That is the most difficult part, not having my family nearby,"
Barthelemy said. "I talk to my father, mother and girlfriend constantly."

And while they might have become nonentities to Cuban authorities,
Gamboa and Barthelemy believe they still have a strong following among
fans on the island.

"The public keeps up with our careers," Barthelemy said. "They might
have the news denied, but Cubans find ways of being informed - whether
it is through homemade antennas or word on the street."

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