Cubans to box as pros for first time in 50 years

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After being banned from turning pro by their country for more than fifty years, ten Cuban boxers are set to break the barrier for their nation when they compete at a special AIBA World Series of Boxing event this August in Mexico City.

“Cuba is one of the best – if not the best – boxing country in the world,” World Series of Boxing CEO Karim Bouzidi told Inside the Games Wednesday. “Seeing them competing for the very first time in a pro-style format will surely send shockwaves throughout the entire boxing world.”

The ten bouts between the Cubans and a team of Mexican fighters will take place August 30 and 31, and will be set at five three-minute rounds with no vest or headgear. AIBA President CK Wu plans to be on hand for the event and Cuban Boxing Federation President Alberto Puig de la Barca has promised to send only his best boxers, including Olympic and World Champions.

Pro boxing was outlawed for Cubans by Fidel Castro back in 1962, because he deemed it corrupt and corrupting, and other Cuban officials deemed it too dangerous. But the ban was officially lifted in April and Cuba then signed up for the fourth World Series of Boxing season, starting in November.

Providing young Cubans a platform to compete as professionals flies in the face of recent protests against the AIBA’s decision to allow pros on their circuit with fewer than fifteen bouts to compete at the Olympics, because it gives the boxers a chance to earn prize money and salaries early in their careers without being quickly lured away by promoters and trainers. Cuba has won 67 medals at the Olympics, including golds in the men’s light welterweight and flyweight divisions last summer in London.

Olympic Track and Field Trials leave Eugene

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The U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials are leaving Eugene, Ore., for the Los Angeles area.

Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) in Walnut, Calif., 20 miles east of LA, will host the 10-day event in 2020.

Eugene, which hosted the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Trials, and Sacramento, host in 2000 and 2004, also bid for the USA Track and Field (USATF) event.

“USATF’s board of directors voted to award the Olympic Trials to Mt. SAC based upon its desire to take the sport’s biggest event to the country’s second-largest media market; the historical strength of the sport in the Los Angeles area; Mt. SAC’s record of hosting elite track events that produce top performances; and a $62 million upgrade to Mt. SAC’s Hilmer Lodge Stadium that will enable the venue to expand to a seating capacity of more than 21,000,” USATF said in a press release.

Mt. SAC previously hosted the 1960 Olympic Trials and annually hosts a popular relays meet in April.

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MORE: Van Niekerk breaks another Michael Johnson record

Wayde van Niekerk breaks another Michael Johnson record

Wayde van Niekerk
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Wayde van Niekerk broke another Michael Johnson record, running the fastest-ever 300m in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Wednesday.

Van Niekerk, who broke Johnson’s 400m world record of 43.18 in Rio with a 43.03, ran 30.81 seconds in Ostrava. Video is here.

Johnson’s previous world best in the rarely contested event was 30.85, clocked at altitude in Pretoria in 2000, his final season.

Van Niekerk previously ran 31.03 over 300m in Kingston, Jamaica, last year. At the time, only Johnson and Usain Bolt (30.97 in 2010, also in Ostrava) had run faster in the non-Olympic event.

Johnson, also the former 200m world-record holder (lowered by Bolt in 2008 and 2009), is left with one world record still standing from the 1993 World Championships 4x400m relay.

Van Niekerk is preparing for the world championships in August in London, where he is expected to contest the 200m and 400m.

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MORE: Van Niekerk gets his wish for world champs