AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

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.

U.S. women’s wrestlers discuss Zika at Olympic test event in Rio (video)

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U.S. Olympic hopefuls are competing in Rio de Janeiro while the Zika virus is being closely monitored, six months ahead of the first Olympics in South America.

In the last week of January, wrestlers competed in an Olympic test event at the Games venue.

“It’s part of traveling,” World champion Adeline Gray said in Rio. “This is something that the people of Brazil have to deal with on a daily basis. The fact that I’m only here for a short time. It’s not really fair for me to freak out about it to that extent. I think if I was planning to have a child in the next month, I would be extremely uneasy about this.”

“I’m just trying not to think about it,” 2013 World bronze medalist Alyssa Lampe said in Rio. “I’m sure if I really thought about the consequences, it would bother me. I’m just trying to focus on wrestling.”

U.S. divers compete in Rio in an Olympic qualifying event next week.

VIDEO: Profile of Kyle Snyder, youngest American to win wrestling World title

Vincent Gagnier, Lisa Zimmermann win ski Big Air at Fenway Park

Vincent Gagnier
AP
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Canadian Vincent Gagnier and German Lisa Zimmermann captured ski Big Air at Fenway Park titles on Friday night.

Gagnier, the 2015 Winter X Games ski big air champion, posted the two best scores of the night, earning the title with a combined 185 points. Scores were tallied combining a skier’s two best runs over three overall.

Gagnier’s highest-scoring trick included four ski grabs while spinning 1260 degrees.

Watch Gagnier’s three runs here. Full men’s results are here.

Zimmermann, the 2015 World champion in ski slopestyle, edged Swede Emma Dahlstrom by two tenths of a point. Zimmermann came up clutch in her final run, scoring a 90.60 on a switch 720-degree jump, going off the ramp backwards.

Watch Zimmermann’s three runs here. Full women’s results are here.

“I love the crowd, it’s like super motivating, and the music is super awesome,” Zimmermann said on NBCSN. “I was thinking all day just to go out and party.”

Athletes were competing on a 140-foot ramp dwarfing the nearby Green Monster, about four times taller than the histroic wall. Ski big air is not part of the Olympic program.

None of the three U.S. Olympic men’s ski slopestyle medalists competed in the final Friday night.

Olympic champion Joss Christensen pulled out before qualification with a sore knee. Silver medalist Gus Kenworthy and bronze medalist Nick Goepper bowed out in qualifying, with Kenworthy not taking all of his runs due to a heel bruise.

U.S. Olympic women’s ski slopestyle silver medalist Devin Logan placed sixth in the final.

NBC will air Big Air at Fenway coverage on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.

MORE: Shaun White explains ‘shock’ of missing X Games